Most of the time, getting a mammogram – or an X-Ray meant to detect early signs of breast cancer – can present a significant hassle. Women often have to take off time from work or family responsibilities, drive and wait in line.
Though the American Cancer Society recommends that women older than 40 complete the procedure once every year, these barriers reduce doctor visits and preventative care. In fact, Ruthann Airy, a mammographer with Diagnostic Imaging Centers, asserts that due to increasingly busy schedules, many women “put their own health on the backburner.” Ultimately, Diagnostic Imaging Centers, which hosts offices across the greater Kansas City area, including one in Independence and one in Lee’s Summit, estimates that only 60 percent of eligible women in the metro area get an annual screening. With the help of a pink bus and plenty of gas, however, Airy and her crew aim to change this.
“We wanted women in the Kansas City area to have something that comes to them, rather than them having to come to it,” said bus driver Bob Olivier, who steers the vehicle dubbed the 3D Mammography Mobile. “We wanted to make it available to everyone.”
Since July 2016, the RV has visited employer headquarters like Cerner, Burns & McDonnell, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Sprint. It’s also camped out at the Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, school districts and even at the Topeka Correctional Facility. Overall, thousands of patients have flocked to its doors.
This wide range of service, which incorporates events catering to those in underserved areas and without insurance, sometimes means Airy and Olivier leave at 4:30 a.m. and get back home at 10 p.m. After returning to the office, Airy must allocate extra time to analyzing results and notifying patients.
Between appointments on the Independence Square Monday, Airy stops to ask where the bus will be going tomorrow and when the first appointment will arrive.
Yet for all the late hours and unpredictable scheduling Airy deals with, she also gets to experience more personal relationships.
“My favorite part is hearing their feedback,” Airy said. “We hear patients say that if we wouldn’t have come to them, they never would’ve gotten their mammogram.”
This includes patients like Rebecca Regan, an employee at the Jackson County Legislature Clerk who was able to walk to her mammogram appointment.
“It’s just so easy,” Regan said after her five-minute appointment. “I didn’t have to go anywhere.”
To find out where the mammography mobile will visit next, go to www.dic-KC.com.