Swedish Medical Center has unveiled the world's most advanced mobile mammography center

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Swedish Medical Center today unveiled the world's most advanced mobile mammography center. Known as the "Swedish Breast Care Express," the 64-foot self-contained coach features the latest full-field digital mammography equipment. And it will be the first unit to incorporate a complete rooftop satellite system for transmitting images remotely.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, exceeded only by lung cancer. In 2004, an estimated 750 women in Washington state will die from the disease and 4,000 more will be diagnosed. If detected early, the five-year survival rate is more than 90 percent.

The Swedish Express was developed to increase access to modern breast-health services for women in hard-to-reach areas of Western Washington. With the new coach, Swedish will double the number of offsite screenings it does each year to more than 12,000.

"Breast cancer is the disease many women fear most," said Mary M. Kelly, M.D., director of medical imaging at the Comprehensive Breast Center on the Swedish/Providence Campus. "But, sometimes, they put off mammograms because they live too far from a health-care facility or simply can't get away during the day."

Working with local health-care providers, the Swedish Express will visit community health fairs, senior centers, migrant worker facilities, tribal centers, community clinics and other sites in rural areas throughout the region. It will also travel to large-employer worksites, such as Microsoft and the City of Tacoma. Early scheduled visits include the Latina Health Fair May 15 at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle and the Quinault Indian Reservation, May 17-18, at Queets on the Olympic Peninsula.

Funds for the $550,000 Swedish Express were raised through individual donations at the annual Women's Wellness luncheon and contributions from the Norcliffe Foundation, the Puget Sound Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Inc., the Swedish/First Hill Auxiliary and many other groups. From final concept to implementation, more than 35 people at Swedish worked on this project for 24 months. The unit was designed and built by Medical Coaches/West of Albany, Ore.

"We like to think of the Express as making rolling house calls - and bringing along the most advanced medical technology and telecommunications available," said Dr. Kelly. "Because the hospital assumes the cost of transportation, we can bring personalized medical services and health education to under-served populations anywhere."

Dr. Kelly added that "patient comfort and privacy are primary considerations and the coach's layout and interior design certainly reflect that."

Ultimately, the Swedish Express will be able to do full onsite diagnostic workups, including breast ultrasound. In addition to mammography, the Swedish Express was built to incorporate other screening exams such as bone densitometry in the future.

Digital Imaging

From the patient's point of view, a digital mammogram is like traditional film screen mammography. Both use X-rays to generate images of the breast. However, instead of using film to record an image, a digital mammogram uses a special detector to capture and convert X-ray energy into computer-readable data.

Once a mammogram is in a digital format, it can be stored in many ways, retrieved electronically, copied exactly and securely transmitted by telephone lines or satellite. For the mobile coach, Swedish purchased a Hologic Lorad Selenia™ Full Field Digital Mammography system that provides incredibly sharp images. From the Swedish Express, it will take less than 15 minutes to send an image to the Comprehensive Breast Center at Swedish/Providence, with no compromise of image quality.

That allows for online, real-time reading by dedicated breast radiologists in Seattle. Now, instead of waiting weeks for a written evaluation, patients can get their results almost immediately and be able to talk with a radiologist if necessary.

Satellite Link

Using KU-Band VSAT technology, the Swedish Express will be able to quickly and securely transmit and receive medical images, voice, Internet Protocol (IP) and data communications from any remote location. In addition to screening and diagnosis, the satellite link enables real-time patient registration and charge entry.

"No one has ever done satellite transmission of mammograms before because file sizes are so large," said Kelly Shaw, MPH, manager of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Swedish/Providence. "Others have tried it, but this is the first system we know of that really works."

Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN) of Miramar, Fla., will provide the auto-deployed, bi-directional broadband satellite system, using the same technology it employs to provide satellite links to cruise ships and offshore oil rigs. The Swedish Express will use a U.S. domestic satellite and image transfer will be done via the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) protocol.

For more information on the Swedish Express and its schedule, contact the Comprehensive Breast Center at (206) 295-9224.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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