Dana-Farber is unveiling a new, state-of-the-art mammography van to bring enhanced breast cancer screening technology to underserved communities in Greater Boston. The new mobile screening van will, for the first time, offer digital 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), making it the only mobile digital mammography program in Massachusetts.
Mammograms are often the first line of defense in detecting breast cancer early, but some women forgo this preventative health measure because they are unable to access a hospital on a regular basis. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in mammography screening rates dropping during the last year-and-a-half resulting in more breast cancers diagnosed in later and more advanced stages.
“Mammography screening has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels and this effect is especially pronounced in underserved communities,” said Sona A. Chikarmane, MD, chief of Breast Imaging at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. “We are thrilled to bring the latest state-of-the-art mammography technology directly to women in communities around Greater Boston and offer a convenient means for all to access this essential cancer screening technology.”
Working with more than 20 community-based organizations and neighborhood health cancers in and around Boston, the Dana-Farber mammography van strives to eliminate barriers by bringing high-quality breast cancer screenings to communities most at risk.
The new Dana-Farber mammography van is outfitted with the latest advancement in breast imaging, 3D imaging, which works by taking images of each breast from multiple angles with an x-ray machine that moves in a 30-degree arc. The result is a detailed image that allows the radiologist to find suspicious areas as well as determine what is overlapping normal breast tissue, allowing for less patients to be called back for false positive mammograms.
While the digital mammography van is available to any woman who is medically eligible, priority populations include those who are low-income, older adults, immigrants, and non-English speaking. All patient coordinators on the van are bilingual, and patients have access to interpreters at all times. This is important as roughly 40% of patients who used the van in 2020 noted English was not their preferred language.
Dana-Farber’s Mammography Van program initially launched in April 2002 as a joint venture between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the City of Boston. Since that time more than 50,000 women have received mammography and other breast health services onboard Dana-Farer’s mobile screening unit.