Hospital offering walk-in mammograms

September 11, 2009 3:17:51 PM PDT
More women age 40 and older are now looking to schedule a mammogram. It's not a perfect test, but it is credited with helping decrease the mortality rate from breast cancer. But some women may put off a mammogram because it can be such a hassle to set up. One area hospital has an unusual program to help make it easier to get women in the door. Shirley Herman is about to get a mammogram. Not that unusual, unless you were to find out that she just walked in to a hospital on a recent Thursday with no appointment, and about half an hour later she was headed in for her routine screening.

"It was no hassle involved. I just had a mindset that Thursday was the day and this is the day," said Herman.

"As long as they have that script from their physician, they can come on in and have that mammogram done without an appointment," said Michelle Kleszynski, director of radiology at Advocate Trinity Hospital.

Advocate Trinity Hospital on Chicago's South Side knows this is hard for most women to believe. But Michelle Kleszynski, the director of radiology, says the hospital has not only state of the art equipment but nine board certified radiologists, who are trained to read mammograms.

"If we can get you in right away, the odds of you having it, your compliance, is much higher," said Kleszynski.

The hospital does mammograms six days a week. Thursday is dedicated to screening mammograms for walk-in clients.

"You can just walk in. How great is that? You know, you get it over with," said Marianela Perales, mammogram patient.

So how does a community hospital come up with an ambitious program like this when the bigger hospitals are struggling with long wait times?

"We actually hired more radiologists in the last few years in order to address this problem, because we always want to have someone available," said Dr. Prabhu Velan, radiologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital.

Getting qualified radiologists has been a challenge, as fewer people are choosing mammography as a specialty. Still, doctors say, many centers are able to provide a quality routine mammogram within at least a week or two after it has been ordered. They say women should look at other screening centers if they can't wait.

"Early rates of detection have definitely shown to have a significant increase in outcomes, (but) like better outcomes for patients' decreased mortality," Velan said.

To make sure you are getting a quality mammogram, the American Cancer Society recommends you ask to see FDA certification of the facility. And it suggests you also ask if a board certified radiologist will be interpreting the exam.


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