Improved technology drives new Dana-Farber mammography van


Hospital and community officials gathered for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the launch of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's new mammography van.

The 38-foot-long van will replace the old vehicle, which is more than 10 years old. The new van will continue to provide annual breast screenings and health education to women throughout the Boston area.

Each week, the van will visit neighborhood health centers and other community-based organizations, with approximately 4,000 women being screened annually.

The new van is equipped with GE Healthcare's Senographe Essentialr digital mammography system. The older van used an analog (film) system to produce mammography images. Medical professionals have said the digital systems provide better visibility, particularly in women with dense tissue.

Digital imaging is also more efficient, since no film processing is required. Instead, images are transferred electronically for a thorough review by radiologists at Dana-Farber.

mammography-van-interior.jpgMaureen Akisik, RT(R)(M) works inside Dana-Farber's new Mammography Van 

"The GE Essential large-field-of-view system will provide the same high level of image quality that we offer patients at Dana-Farber," said Maureen Akisik, supervisor of mammography.

"The equipment will enable technologists to image patients more effectively and will provide sophisticated digital-imaging resource tools that radiologists can use when interpreting mammograms."

The radiology technologists who staff the van have built strong relationships and trust in the community. Approximately 60 percent of the van's patients have had an annual screening on the vehicle in previous years.

"We're the only mobile-health service in the Boston area to help women regularly monitor their breast health and stay connected to the health care system," said Noreen Burke, director of Dana-Farber's Mobile Health program, which manages both the mammography van and the Blum Family Resource Van.

"It's a vitally important community service, particularly in the neighborhoods we visit."

Funding for the new van was provided by the American Cancer Society, Avon Foundation for Women, Cynthia Alekel Mohr Mammography Van Fund, Stratford Foundation, and the Massachusetts Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, along with dozens of other organizations.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

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