The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recently launched a new digital mammography unit, the Mobile Breast Care Center (MBCC), which will improve access to mammography services for American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) women. The MBCC will provide state-of-the-art mammograms in Tuba City, a remote site on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona.
“The MBCC is a key component of the Mobile Digital Telemammography Project, which was initiated by the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services to address the barriers to sustaining critical health care services in underserved areas,” says HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. “The goal of this Center is to increase access of underserved populations to high-quality breast cancer care.”
The MBCC combines the most advanced technology for breast cancer detection with onsite patient screening diagnosis and education, all available during one visit. The MBCC is equipped with a digital mammography unit that captures images by a unique detector plate instead of the traditional film used in mammograms. After full-field mammograms are obtained, the digital images are transmitted to a medical center for diagnosis and evaluation. Before leaving the Center, the patient has a private consultation with a member of the health care staff to discuss the results and appropriate follow-up care. Patients also receive education on breast cancer detection during the visit, via the Internet or video and audiotapes.
“The IHS is committed to bringing the best and most advanced technology to Indian health issues,” says Michael H. Trujillo, PhD, director of the IHS. “The immediate patient feedback made possible by the MBCC will help reduce patient anxiety and ensure appropriate follow-up care, an often difficult component of providing quality patient care in remote sites.”
If the MBCC concept proves successful in increasing positive patient outcomes, the IHS may investigate the possible uses of digital mammography and telecommunications technology for mobile breast care centers at other IHS sites.