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Mammograms lag during pandemic, Mercy Health workers say

Health experts urge women to catch back up on their yearly breast cancer screenings.

TOLEDO, Ohio — EDITOR'S NOTE: The attached video originally aired on June 12, 2021.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and experts say early detection is key in treating the disease.

"(I) haven't done it in awhile. The doctor called and said, 'hey, hey,' so, here I am," Pam Mikolayczyk of Point Place said, who got a mammogram on the Mercy Health Mobile Mamm Van.  

"Gal took a little bit of information from me and then I went back and did what we had to do and I don't even think it was ten minutes. So that's perfect," she said.

The Mobile Mamm Van has been cruising around northwest Ohio since February. One day it sets up in Point Place and the next in Oregon. It travels as far south and east as Tiffin and west as Swanton. 

"We're definitely starting to see patient volume increase over the months, especially as we're starting to increase our footprint throughout northwest Ohio," Mercy Health Mobile Mammography Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Gunderman said.

RELATED: Researchers study impact of pandemic cancer screening pause

A trend Mercy Health workers have seen with patients over the past several months is that many of them missed their 2020 screenings during the pandemic. Mercy Health PointShore Practice Manager Rhonda Lazette said she's been reaching out to patients, urging them to get back on track. 

"Most of them are return mammograms. Usually, they go to the hospital, but instead they tried the van this time. I would say most of them put it off for COVID though," Lazette said.

When patients call to schedule with the mobile van, the voice they'll hear on the other end belongs to someone who who takes breast cancer personally. 

"It's been quite a journey," Gunderman said.

Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, so she planned to have her first screening at age 35. 

"I felt a lump at 34, so I called my doctor as soon as I could, and detecting it at that early stage really led to a great outcome for myself," Gunderman said.

It's been 18 months and Gunderman is doing well and helping other women stay on top of their health. 

"We know that early detection is so important when it comes to breast cancer because it can often find a lump before a patient feels it," she said.

Mikolayczyk said she'll be back on the van again next year. 

"The whole process is not that bad, and it's well worth it. It could save your life," she said.

If you're 40 and over, you can get a mammogram on the mobile unit without a doctor's order. Gunderman said if you have a family history of breast cancer, talk with your doctor about starting screenings at age 35.

You can check out the locations the mobile mammography van will be at and find out how to sign up for a mammogram here or call 1-833-MAMMVAN (833-626-6826).



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