WOODBRIDGE, Va. — After a two-year hiatus, the Sentara 3D mammography van is back in business serving the residents of Northern Virginia and beyond.
Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center announced Wednesday that its 3D mammography van will begin visiting communities throughout its service area beginning March 30, 2023.
"Mammography is the single most important weapon we have in identifying and preventing or treating breast cancer," nurse navigator Heather Byrne said. "Bringing it to the workplace or to the community makes it easier for women to do that one thing women need to do to take care of themselves, something we're not very good at usually."
COVID-19 pandemic challenges and supply chain issues kept the van out of service in 2021 and 2022, according to a news release.
Officials say the van is an important community resource that has been providing screenings to many underserved communities since 2012.
"People who don't have insurance or are under-insured often have other challenges financially, like troubles with transportation, so we go where they work, where they take their kids to school, where they go to church with our van, so they can kill two birds with one stone," nurse navigator Deana Henry said.
It will return to service on March 30, with a trip down Interstate 95 to Glen Allen, Virginia, a rural community about 50 miles south of the medical center.
Officials said the van brings the same state-of-the-art technology that a patient would receive in a Sentara facility into area communities.
3D mammography is the current standard of care for breast cancer screenings and has been proven to find smaller tumors at earlier stages than traditional 2D mammograms, studies find.
"We want to see women getting their mammograms. sometimes women will hear their friends talk about the mammogram screening process being painful, that kind of thing. sometimes it can be a little uncomfortable, but trust me, it is far better than the alternative, and that being detecting breast cancer at a later stage," Henry said. "Also, whether you have insurance or not, here at Sentara, we're here to help you get a mammogram, work with you for financial assistance and things, so do not let that be a barrier."
Officials say the mobile unit is designed for comfort, with private dressing rooms, central air/heating, and a platform step for a safer entry.
“We know that detecting breast cancer early, before it has spread, saves lives,” said Melissa Botelho, manager of radiology at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. “By coming into the community or directly to a workplace, the mobile mammography van will bring screening services to those who might not otherwise get this necessary care.”