While visiting her primary care physician at a local clinic, Daisy Angulo, a 47-year-old caregiver in Homestead, was advised to get her annual mammogram last October.
Not at a hospital or doctor’s office but at the Linda Fenner 3D Mammography Center, a mobile 3-D mammogram unit designed to offer uninsured women free screenings in their neighborhoods.
The pink-and-blue mobile unit — 45-feet long and 14-feet high— can be found parked outside federally qualified clinics, homeless shelters or health fairs at churches or community organizations.
The center brings 3-D mammography, the latest technology in breast cancer screening, to Miami-Dade County’s under-served communities, including Miami Gardens, Opa-locka, Hialeah, Homestead and Florida City.
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Launched in November 2014 by the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, the mobile mammogram unit is funded by the Braman Family Foundation. It’s named after Norman Braman’s sister-in-law, Linda Fenner, who died of breast cancer in 2005 at age 54.
Since its inception, the center has served nearly 1,400 women and diagnosed 12 breast cancer cases. Eight of these cases were detected in the early stages.
“We are there to give access where they didn’t have it before,” said Lorraine Nowakowski, director of clinical operations at the medical school. “We try to break any barrier to obtaining a mammogram.”
According to the American Cancer Society, only 38 percent of women ages 40 and older with no health insurance had a mammogram in the past two years, compared with 70 percent of those with health insurance.
Other factors that prevent women from getting mammograms are no access to transportation, finances or a lack of education about their importance, Nowakowski said.
The center partners with clinics, faith-based organizations and homeless shelters like Lotus House and Camillus House to offer free mammograms to the community.
“Your ZIP Code can have more effect on your health than your genetic code,” Nowakowski said.
To be eligible for a free breast screening at the center, the patient must live in Miami-Dade County, be age 40 and above, be under-insured or have no insurance, have no symptoms like lumps in breast or pain and have no history of breast cancer.
The screening takes about 20 to 30 minutes, Nowakowski said. The results are received back in a week. If a patient receives an abnormal result, the patient is referred to a hospital and through funding from FIU receives further testing such as a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.
Angulo’s results were abnormal and after further testing, doctors diagnosed her with two small masses in her right breast. She was in the early stages of breast cancer.
In February, Angulo underwent surgery twice to remove the masses. She then underwent radiation therapy, which she completed this summer. She is now cancer free but for the next five years will undergo hormone therapy with estrogen inhibitor pills.
In three months, she will visit her breast surgeon and oncologist at Jackson Memorial Hospital and return for visits every six months.
“I feel blessed to have been able to come to the mobile unit,” Angulo said. “The staff was very attentive and walked me through the process every step of the way. I was also provided emotional support, which was a huge part of my recovery. I am grateful it was caught early.”
For information on the Linda Fenner 3D Mammography Center or to schedule a visit, call 305-FIU-PINK or visit mammography.fiu.edu.