Jennifer Self is doubly happy with the spa-like atmosphere of UMMC Grenada's Imaging Center.
She's happy that when she gets her annual mammogram, she dons a white belted robe instead of a waist-length hospital gown that opens to the front. Self loves the low lighting of the cozy, well-appointed waiting room that's only for those getting that life-saving screening test, where she can sit on a comfy sofa or chair and relax.
But mostly, Self is happy that her patients will enjoy that same experience. She's a mammography technologist in the Imaging Center, which also offers full radiological services from CT scans to X-rays.
“There's no comparison when you walk into this waiting room. It's really calming,” Self said. “Patients are much more comfortable here than going to a hospital for a mammogram.”
Said Teresa McCammon, the lead mammography technologist: “It's less medical and more personal. We want to create an atmosphere where people don't dread having a mammogram.”
McCammon examines a mammography scan.
The Imaging Center uses 2D mammography for screening women for possible breast cancer, but it also offers 3D mammography, a diagnostic screen for women whose 2D mammography detected a possible lesion. 3D mammography “offers a more in-depth look to find something to treat that you can't see with 2D,” said Cristy Seibel, the Imaging Center's director of radiology.
“The biggest advantage of 3D is that for women with dense breast, a nodule might look suspicious on 2D,” Seibel said. “Not only is it good for finding cancers sooner, but it decreases callbacks for more mammograms. We're able to prove that a particular lesion is nothing to be concerned about.”
For patients of UMMC Grenada, all diagnostic screening is done at the Imaging Center, which was renovated in 2015. “That includes CT, X-ray, bone density, mammograms and in October, we're adding ultrasound for breast,” Seibel said. “But what sets us apart is that the breast center is state of the art.
Those improvements included 3D mammography. “Otherwise, you'd have to go to Memphis or Jackson,” McCammon said. UMMC's Cancer Institute in Jackson offers the more enhanced mammography.
A plus for all patients seeking radiological services is that they don't have to go to a hospital, McCammon said. “This is an in and out clinic,” she said. “Your sicker patients are at the hospital. If it's flu season, people can come here and hopefully reduce their exposure for it.”
It's also easier for a large portion of their target group for mammograms: Women who've never had one.
“Our local doctors are very good about recommending to their patients that they get a mammogram, and we accept self-referrals,” said Seibel, who oversees between 200-250 procedures a month. “But what we're seeing in the 50-55 age group is women who have not had a mammogram before because they're terrified. They come in with a lump, and they've heard that a mammogram hurts.
McCammon, left, helps patient Self relax in the Imaging Center's private waiting area for those getting a mammogram.
“This is not a traumatic event,” she said. “Our atmosphere is very soothing and calming.”
It's also easier for older women to park near the clinic's front doors instead of having a longer walk at a hospital, McCammon said. “This is more efficient,” she said.
After putting on a robe, patients stand front of the mammogram machine. McCammon or another technician gently places her breast on a clear plastic panel, explaining the procedure and asking if the patient has any questions. At one point, the patient will be asked to raise her arm for additional views of the layers of her breast.
McCammon and other technicians view images of the breast just a few feet from the mammogram unit, obtaining quick information on the scans.
The center at 1300 Sunset Drive is open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. And although it's only about a mile from the UMMC Grenada campus, patients are finding it's emotionally their best option.
“It's more private and personal,” Self said. “It's not an atmosphere where you feel like someone is going to hurt you.”
“It's geared toward making women feel special,” said Claudette Hathcock, the hospital's director of human resources, marketing and physician outreach.