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Making It Easy to Get Screened

 Ft. Jesse Imaging Center and Gale Keeran Center for Women January 02, 2016


By Becky Wiese

If asked about the top 10 most relaxing things to do, most women would probably not include having a mammogram on the list. The Ft. Jesse Imaging Center and Gale Keeran Center for Women (GKCW) want to change that. “Our women’s center is a true outpatient facility, and it’s very ‘spa’ like,” says Amy Wohlford R.T.(R), Practice Liaison. “We try to make it as comfortable as possible so patients don’t experience that anxiety during what can be a nerve-wracking experience.”

Making it “comfortable” means a warm, inviting atmosphere. A fireplace warms the main lobby. The waiting areas have televisions, comfortable chairs, coffee — a lot of little touches that are anything but sterile and cold. “It’s not clinical at all,” explains Wohlford. “And patients really appreciate the warm capes we provide for them during their mammogram.” That fact in and of itself makes the entire experience better somehow.

Offering What Women Need
The feminine touch caters to women because women tend to be the decision makers for their family’s health needs — especially their own. Having a nice place to go, especially if it’s a spa-like atmosphere, makes it easier to make appointments for themselves.

The Women’s Center, named in honor of Gale Keeran, exhibits much of the same care, concern, and focus on women’s health as its namesake. “Gale Keeran worked at OSF St. Joseph Hospital and was a huge advocate for women’s health,” Wohlford shares. Not only does the staff at the Gale Keeran Center for Women want the environment to be warm and inviting, they try to make it easy for women to come in for a variety of screenings and other diagnostic imaging procedures.

Mammograms screen for small, often undetectable, lumps or a large group of micro calcifications. Three different types of mammography are available at GKCW. A baseline mammogram creates the first images of a woman’s breasts to which subsequent images are compared in order to detect changes. Screening mammograms are done yearly, usually after the age of 40, and are used to identify abnormal changes in the breast tissue. A diagnostic mammogram is used as a problem-solving tool when a patient has discovered a lump or is experiencing a pain or other concern.

Women can undergo 2D or 3D mammograms. Considered to be cutting-edge technology as well as a giant step in early detection, 3D mammography allows radiologists to see breast tissue in very thin slices, which gives them more detail of all the tissue. Whereas a 2D mammogram provides a flat image in which tissue can overlap and thus hide small abnormalities, a 3D image will enable the physician to see the location, size, and shape of abnormal tissue. Finding a tumor in its earliest stages increases the likelihood of successful treatment.

A 3D mammogram also reduces call back rates, which not only avoids the need for additional imaging, but more importantly, decreases the anxiety level of the patient.

Other diagnostic procedures include breast ultrasound, ultrasound guided biopsy and cyst aspiration, breast MRI, and bone density scans.

Overcoming All Kinds of Hurdles
Advanced technology can only go so far in detecting even the earliest stages of breast cancer, however. Other hurdles that women face in detection land squarely in their own busy schedule. Fortunately, the GKCW is working to overcome those hurdles as much as they can.

Don’t have the time to visit your doctor for a mammogram order? No problem. At GKCW, they don’t require a doctor’s order for a screening mammogram, making it easier to schedule right away. As long as you’ve seen your physician within the last 12 months, you can just call them yourself to set up your screening.

Schedule too crazy during the week? No problem. They schedule appointments starting at 7 a.m. on weekdays, and if that doesn’t work, Saturday appointments are available. Women are welcome to schedule their screening between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. (“Or 2, if we need to stay longer,” says Wohlford.) on two Saturdays each month. And when you call to make that appointment, you will talk to a person at the front desk, without having to wade through an automated menu to finally get someone in the scheduling department.

Just don’t feel like you have the time? No problem. Screening mammograms typically take 15 minutes, including the check-in process. Fifteen minutes…less time than the average wait in line for your favorite coffee fix or your hair appointment. And if waiting for results is an issue, they have that covered too. “We offer same day or next day service,” Wohlford explains.

Keep forgetting to call to make the appointment? No problem. When you check in for your first screening, they schedule you automatically for next year. You can put it on your calendar immediately to make it easy and convenient. Patients will also receive a reminder call for their appointment.

Don’t think you can choose where to go? No problem. “Patients need to know they have a choice about where to go for their screening mammogram,” says Melissa Marx, Practice Administrator. “At the Gale Keeran Center for Women, we accept all major insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.”

In fact, she encourages women to do a price comparison for the service they’ll need. “Our services may be less expensive, but that certainly doesn’t mean they are less quality. We have the latest in equipment and the same radiologists read the scans — so they are getting the best of everything — services and price.”

She also urges women to be smart about utilizing the full benefit of their insurance — most insurance companies consider a screening mammogram to be preventative care, meaning they do not go towards the deductible and patients will not owe out of pocket.

The Gale Keeran Center for Women is doing everything it can to break down the hurdles for getting a screening mammogram. “Mammograms are life savers,” says Wohlford. “There’s really no good reason not to have one, especially since, as a preventative measure, it is covered by insurance.”

Reaching Out to More Women
Still, in 2014, only about half of the women age 40 and older in McLean County went in for their mammogram. “We are a ‘Pink Partner’ with the Community Cancer Center in their effort to increase the mammogram rates in our area,” Wohlford says. “We are working to increase the overall mammography rate and provide breast health education.”

Pink Partners also has grant funds to provide educational material, sponsor outreach events, and even pay for mammograms and transportation for women who may not be able to afford the test or have access to a facility that provides mammograms.

These efforts are important, especially since breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in this area, according to the McLean County Health Department website. In addition, the Susan G. Komen Memorial Affiliate, which includes 32 counties in central Illinois, reported in 2011 that mammogram screening and treatment for breast cancer among minorities and the rural poor were areas of concern.

For example, the late stage diagnosis for African American women (which implies that they were not getting screened early) and the higher than average death rate in nine rural counties (indicating perhaps the difficulty of getting screened due to timing or accessibility) show that more women need to know that screening is not only effective, but it is easy and fast. 

Other considerations include language barriers for groups of women that are not native English speakers, as well as basic education regarding breast health and overall accessibility options that are available.

At Gale Keeran Center for Women’s Health, they feel the atmosphere contributes to their patients’ comfort level. Getting a mammogram may not be the most relaxing thing to do, but having a comfortable place to get it done can help. Many women have found this to be true. “Once we get a patient in here, they usually come back every year,” says Wohlford.

Contact the Gale Keeran Center for Women’s Health at 309-454-5552 or online at www.ftjesse.com for more information or to schedule an appointment. Back to Top

 Ft. Jesse Imaging Center and Gale Keeran Center for Women| January 02, 2016
Keywords:  Feature Story

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