Women are not getting a baseline mammogram as early as they should, according to statistics compiled from the first year of services performed at the Women’s Imaging Suite at Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital.
“Women on St. Croix are waiting too long to have their first mammogram,” said David Williams, director of Imaging Services.
In the African American population women tend to get a very aggressive type of breast cancer, Williams said. They are seeing first-time mammograms with cancer already detected. It’s good to catch it, but early detection is best, he said.
“We have to do more screening,” Williams said. “The trend isn’t very good. We are pleading with the public to come in and be more proactive about their health.”
The Women’s Imaging Suite at the hospital opened June 6, 2013. An open house will celebrate the anniversary at the Imaging Suite from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday. People will have the opportunity to look at equipment and talk to doctors and technicians, and the center will give away 10 certificates for free mammograms.
The Women’s Imaging Suite offers general radiology, mammography, ultrasonography, and bone densitometry, all in one central location. In the Women’s Suite technicians and doctors can do the biopsy and pathology all in that convenient location. While the suite is a self-contained center within JFL, Williams said the suite was specifically designed so it did not look like part of the hospital.
“We have put together the whole approach in the Women’s Imaging Suite,” Williams said. “You can’t just put equipment in a room and call it a program.”
Williams called the people working in the suite "a sensational team of radiologists."
They take referrals and accept walk-ins, but Williams stressed patients must have their own primary care physician for treatment. He said there are physicians on staff that are willing to accept new patients.
“This imaging suite fills the gap for low- to moderate-income citizens,” Williams said. “We want everyone to know they can come in and have screening done.”
He added they take all major insurance and billing is done through the suite.
Velma Vasquez and Millidan Zamora, bilingual ultrasound technicians, are the suite’s link to the Hispanic community.
The services at the suite are designed both to help save the lives of women in the territory and to make testing stress-free, convenient and streamlined.
Williams said with the statistics they have compiled they are working on getting grants to add to the program. He said they plan to move forward with more renovations, and may work with the JFL staff psychologist and have a program for women and families dealing with cancer.
Williams said since 2009 Sen. Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly secured $400,000 from the central government to build the suite for mammography.