Cancer center implements digital technology into mobile van

The money came in part from MU.
The Ellis Fischel Cancer Center is under construction and will be located in the new patient care tower at University Hospital. The construction has an estimated completion date of early 2013.

Technology aboard the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center's mobile mammography van is getting an update in an effort to digitalize test results.

The new technology prevents positioning and exposure errors in breast examinations by implementing digital equipment instead of film. MU Health Center spokesman Matt Splett said the addition has already proved advantageous to both patients and physicians.

“The patient benefits are in the accuracy and efficiency that the digital mammography technology provides,” Splett said. “Women who come to the van will leave the van knowing their mammogram is complete. The benefits for physicians are that the digital technology provides enhanced images of the breast with greater clarity to assist in diagnosing and detecting breast cancers.”

Sue Sinele, a staff nurse at Ellis Fischel, said the digital technology allows hospital personnel to maneuver the X-ray images on board the van in a way that could not have been done before.

“We can manipulate pictures by zooming in on new areas,” Sinele said. “It also gives us instant views so that if the view isn’t to the quality that (physicians) would like, we can take additional pictures on the van while the patient is here so they don’t have to come back. Before we weren’t able to process pictures until we came back and a radiologist read it the next day.”

Although Ellis Fischel has implemented this technology for several years, the traveling mammography van lacked the digital equipment due to a shortage of funds and technical issues. Sinele, who used to be a driver for the mammography van, said the $250,000 needed to fund the development came in part from MU.

“As far as cost goes, we were able to apply to the university to have them pay for this for us,” Sinele said. “We had applied for it several years in a row, but at the time there were other projects going on. Luckily we were chosen this past year.”

Ellis Fischel Cancer Center’s mobile mammography van travels to 26 central Missouri counties providing breast cancer screenings. The 44-foot-long van houses an examination room and a mammography suite. A certified radiology technologist and nurse examiner deliver the screenings, primarily targeting women in rural areas with little accessibility to full hospital facilities, Splett said.

“By setting up at local businesses, (the mammography van) is a way for women to have their mammography done in an efficient manner, especially in rural areas,” Splett said. “Last week the van traveled to Eldon where some women who didn’t have the ability to drive to an actual hospital were able to walk to the van to have their annual screening done. We are providing a valuable service throughout the state.”

The promotion of the mammography van and its new technology overlaps with breast cancer awareness month, a coincidence Splett said has added to the public’s appreciation of the developments.

“I think there’s a general awareness amongst the public that this new technology is one way we are providing women life-saving cancer screening services,” Splett said.

Despite publicity discrediting the idea of annual mammograms, Sinele said the importance of the American Cancer Society’s guidelines.

“It is important that women everywhere still get their mammograms every year,” she said. “Self-breast exams should be done every month from your 20s on. You can detect smaller changes which leads to finding cancers earlier.”

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