Women's health on wheels

On July 13, an 18-wheeler will leave Maryland, bound for the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. On board will be an astonishing array of the latest in digital breast mammography equipment and sophisticated satellite systems for relaying the mammography images back to expert radiologists at the U.S. Army's Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland and to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

It's all part of a high-tech initiative to demonstrate that state-of-the-art mammography screening and diagnosis can be made available to women in traditionally underserved regions and to determine the feasibility of extending the service to other underserved populations.

Conceived by Johns Hopkins, with support from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and the Indian Health Service, the initial phase of the project was funded with a $250,000 grant from the Susan Komen Foundation. The initiative will bring real-time digital mammography to Navajo women along with training in breast self-examination and follow-up counseling.

Unlike conventional X-ray mammography, which requires films to be processed and printed, digital mammography produces visual results that can be viewed by technologists at the mobile center and relayed immediately via satellite to experts at Walter Reed and Hopkins. Based on the expert readings, the women can be informed if they need additional tests or procedures, such as diagnostic mammography or breast biopsies, while they are still at the center, helping ensure they receive prompt, effective follow-up care.

Another advantage of digital mammography is that it can reduce patient call-backs, an important consideration in remote or underserved areas. Call-backs occur when patients must return for imaging because of uncertainty over findings. With digital technology, doctors can enhance the digital image in a variety of ways with a computer, obtaining multiple views from a fewer number of images. As

Contact: Gary Stephenson
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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