The Women’s Health Center Coach is a mobile health care service making its way to businesses, community centers, retirement communities and rural physician offices in the greater Spokane, Washington, area. For the past 15 years, the Coach has served thousands of women by providing mammography services and personalized, one-on-one education.
Returning patients are greeted by familiar faces. Michelle Kozeluh has been a mammogram technician for nearly 20 years – and has operated out of the Coach since 2007. Lana Burnette has been a technician on the mobile center since its beginnings in 1999.
“We have a lot of repeat patients. Some have been having exams on the Coach for more than 10 years,” Michelle explained. “They are really comfortable with our small staff.”
“Plus,” said Lana, “we bring the mammogram to the patient. It doesn’t get any easier than that!”
What to Expect on the Coach
Lana and Michelle hit the road at 6 a.m. and see 10-24 patients each day, depending on how far they need to travel from the home base in Spokane. There’s plenty of privacy on board and educational materials and resources, too. Procedures are efficient – women are in, out and on with their day in as little as 15 minutes. Two weeks later, they receive a letter explaining their results.
Expect to be greeted with a smile and a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. For Lana and Michelle, it’s about making sure each patient is comfortable in what can be an uncomfortable situation.
“Sometimes, I can really sense a woman’s overwhelming fear about the procedure,” said Michelle. “It’s then that I put on a second hat. Often that means just being a friend and making small talk about summer trips or gardening plans.”
“Expect lots of laughs,” said Lana about the mammography services. “We keep it fun and efficient.”
Questions, Apprehensions and Misconceptions
Apprehensions are common. Patients are often afraid that the mammogram will hurt, the procedure will damage their breasts or the radiation will actually cause cancer. Some patients are also concerned that equipment on the Coach is substandard.
“We assure them it’s the same digital equipment used in the offices in town,” said Michelle.
Questions are always welcome, especially during the procedure. “It helps patients understand why they’re being compressed and squeezed,” said Lana. Many women ask about what mammograms can detect, about at home self-exams, how often they should have a mammogram, at what age they can stop having a mammogram and if men should have mammograms also.
Uncertainties regarding lumps and masses in the breast are also common. Michelle encourages women to ask questions addressing other symptoms of breast disease such as itching nipples, pain in the armpit region, nipple discharge, nipple retraction and many others.
Who Uses the Coach?
Women who use the Coach come from various social and economic backgrounds. There’s no such thing as a typical patient. “Often women come to us after not having a mammogram for a decade,” explains Michelle. “Some are uninsured, and may have heard about qualifying for a free mammogram from the Safeway Grant authorized through our office.” No woman is ever turned away for her inability to pay. Other times, the Coach visits a business, helping busy working women receive their annual procedure.
While the background and demographics of the Coach’s patients may vary, they share an appreciation for the fast, friendly and personable care provided on board, and have a common desire to take control of their personal health.
For additional information on the Coach, how to apply for the Safeway Grant, and where – around Spokane – you can expect to find the Coach next, call (509) 474-2400. You can also see the Coach’s schedule online.
Who Should Have a Mammogram?
According to the National Cancer Institute, women age 40 and older should have a mammogram every one or two years. But, there are exceptions. Some women, based on their family history or other factors, are advised to begin having regular mammograms at a younger age. The bottom line: talk to your primary care provider. Discuss your medical history and make an informed choice together.
If You Can’t Afford a Mammogram
Low-cost mammograms are available in most areas. Call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345 for information about options in your area. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) also provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to women without health insurance for free or at very little cost. To learn more about this program, contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at (800) 232-4636 or visit their website.