Construction begins on UF Health Cancer Center’s mobile mammography unit  

With $1.5 million from University of Florida President Ben Sasse’s Strategic Funding Initiative and matching funds from the UF Health Cancer Center, a mobile mammography unit will bring cancer screening services directly to the community. 

Rendering of the mobile mammography unit

Construction is well underway on the unit and it is expected to launch this fall. During the coming months, progress will be shared in a regular series called The Rollout (on the UF Health Cancer Center website and social media channels).  

“The University of Florida is committed to helping our underserved communities gain better access to breast cancer screenings,” Sasse said. “This is such an important project for raising awareness about breast cancer prevention.”

For many people living in the rural 23-county area of North Central Florida served by the UF Health Cancer Center, access to mammography services for breast cancer screening is limited. A mobile mammography unit designed to reach this community, outfitted with leading-edge technology, will be the first of its kind in North Central Florida – a region larger than Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut combined. 

The vehicle chassis arrived in late March, paving the way for vehicle flooring and walls to be installed next. Tesco, an Ohio-based company, is building the unit and anticipates completion in July. After fine tuning, the vehicle will get a specially designed wrap.  

Forty feet long, 13 feet high, and weighing more than 30,000 pounds, the unit will feature two distinct rooms: one will house a state-of-the-art 3D mammography machine, and the other will resemble a typical clinic exam room. There will be dedicated counter space for staff to work, a changing room for patients, a restroom, an intake area for staff and patients, and a small refrigerator and microwave. 

The unit will function just like a typical brick-and-mortar clinic, thanks to Wi-Fi and air conditioning. The interior will even have entertainment, with TV screens, Bluetooth speakers, and a DVD player. The exterior will have an awning and a weatherproof TV so that information can be displayed digitally when the unit is parked. 

Removing barriers to breast cancer screening

Breast cancer is among the most prevalent cancers in North Central Florida, with rural communities experiencing increased rates of advanced stages of the disease and higher mortality. These rural communities also have high poverty rates, which often leads to significant barriers for those trying to access preventive health care. 

A mammogram is a special type of X-ray of the breasts; it is an essential screening for identifying breast cancer when it is small and has not spread. Early detection means a better chance of successful treatment. Women can start getting mammograms at age 40, and the American Cancer Society advises that all women have annual mammograms by age 45.  

With mobile mammography, the UF Health Cancer Center will be able to bring this vital checkup right where it is needed, removing a key barrier to screening: transportation. The unit will set up shop in convenient neighborhood spots, such as a church, shopping centers, and community centers. 

A rendering of the mobile mammography unit. (Courtesy of Tesco)

The unit will have the same 3D mammography technology as UF Health clinics. By providing a clearer and more detailed image of the breast tissue, 3D mammography can help radiologists distinguish between normal breast tissue and potential abnormalities more effectively. 

“Unlike 2D mammography, which captures a single image of the breast, 3D mammography takes multiple images from different angles,” said Jamie Hensley, MHCM, CCRP, assistant director of screening and care navigation with the UF Health Cancer Center Office of Community Outreach and Engagement. “This allows the breast tissue to be examined layer by layer, which can help detect abnormalities that may not be visible on a traditional 2D mammogram.”

Once the mammogram is done, the breast images will be transmitted via secure Wi-Fi to UF Health doctors, who will advise the mobile unit staff about whether further tests or follow-ups are needed. 

One-stop shop for care

Mobile mammography is just the tip of the spoke on this bus, though. The mobile unit will also be equipped to provide screening for other diseases, including cervical and colorectal cancers. To increase the unit’s impact and ensure continuity of care, highly trained community health workers will help patients access primary care health services and learn about how to participate in UF research studies. 

By bundling cancer screening services, the mobile unit will reach more people, allowing friends and family members to get screened at one time without the hassle and cost of traveling to a facility. 

Latest progress

The Rollout

Coming soon!

Stay tuned for the next edition of The Rollout to learn more about the mobile unit and get the latest updates.

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