Buddy Check 25: Bringing cancer screenings to you

By WEEK Producer

September 25, 2013 Updated Sep 25, 2013 at 10:41 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Imagine if doctors still made house calls. Better yet, what if getting screened for cancer was as easy as pulling up to your local convenience store.

No matter where you live, breast cancer screening is more accessible than ever. From small town central Illinois, to the urban core of Peoria, you can find a special tool in the local fight against breast cancer.

One of just two such vehicles in the state, the UnityPoint Methodist Mobile Mammography Unit eliminates excuses for not getting an annual mammogram.

"It's more convenient for me because I don't have to drive clear to Peoria,” said Priscilla Anderson.

Anderson, 69, lives in Norris, just outside of Canton. When she heard the Mammo Van would be in town earlier this month, she scheduled her appointment.

"A lot of people, older people especially, rely on this,” she said.

The Mammo Van is all about accessibility. Whether it's bringing screening to a Wal-Mart parking lot in Canton or to a more urban area on the South Side of Peoria, it is all about convenience but that convenience comes with a cost to the provider.

While the technology inside the vehicle is the same as you would find in a typical diagnostic center, the Mammo Van is more expensive to operate. Grant funding from Susan G. Komen, the Methodist Service League and Bikers for Ta-Tas help pay for gas, upkeep of the vehicle and even part of the salary of its coordinator, Breast Health Educator Donna Richmond.

"They allow me to go out into the community and outreach to people, to areas where really maybe education is necessary,” Richmond said. “Maybe patients don't know that they can get mammograms covered if they don't have insurance."

Richmond said mammography technicians see patients who have Medicare, Medicaid, insurance and the uninsured.

On this day in Canton, they screened 10 women, one of them a walk-in. Richmond says it's not uncommon for the patients who are screened at the unit to be first-timers, never screened for the disease until the Mammo Van pulled up.

Saturday hours are often available. No physician's order is required. To find out where the Mammo Van will be next or to schedule your appointment call (309) 671-8282.

Don't forget, it is the 25th of the month. So make a healthy choice by doing your breast self-exam. Then, remind a buddy to do the same.