mammogram

Ohio County Healthcare mammographer Renee Rich demonstrates how the 3-D digital mammography machine rotates to accommodate a patient’s weight, height, posture and body habits. OCH has used the machine for around two years as part of its investment in new, digital equipment.

Ohio County Healthcare is now offering walk-in mammogram appointments in an effort to make preventative screenings more accessible to the community following COVID-19.

Cece Robinson, director of community relations, said the healthcare system’s screening numbers for mammograms have exceeded pre-COVID-19 screening levels in recent weeks, which she attributes to many feeling comfortable getting back out in public as more and more people are becoming vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Early detection is the best method to help ensure long-term survival, so the sooner you can detect a potential cancer and treat it, the better the outcome,” Robinson said.

Receiving annual mammograms is important, specifically for women ages 40 and older, for potential early detection of breast cancer, according to OCH mammographer Renee Rich.

During the height of the pandemic, especially when non-essential healthcare services were shut down, Rich said mammograms and other preventative screenings decreased significantly.

When non-essential services resumed, Rich said the healthcare system worked hard to ensure people were able to reschedule appointments and get individuals in to be seen.

Rich said it is important for those that have missed their annual mammograms or other preventative screenings to be seen as soon as possible.

“Don’t wait,” she said.

In an effort to get more people screened, Robinson said OCH has been working to make preventative screenings more accessible, available and convenient for patients.

“I think across the healthcare community, the pandemic created a significant problem for … preventative screenings,” Robinson said. “This delay has clinicians, healthcare providers, physicians worried for the potential that there could be a higher rate of advanced stage cancers because of the delayed screenings.”

The healthcare system has recently begun to offer walk-in mammograms for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as some evening, early morning appointments and every other Saturday.

Having appointments available outside of normal times, Rich said, ensures that individuals who may not have flexible work hours during the week or the normal work day are able to come and get screened, too.

Rich also said that COVID-19 vaccines play an important role in scheduling screening appointments.

According to Rich, healthcare systems are recommended by the Federal Drug Administration to take into consideration when patients have received their shots and schedule four to six weeks following a COVID-19 vaccine to prevent having false-positive results on a mammogram screening.

“We want to make sure that patients are educated about the vaccine and the effects that it will have on their mammogram,” she said.

Additionally, OCH has made a significant investment in new digital equipment in recent years, according to Robinson, which has helped to expand the healthcare system’s women health services for the local community.

This is significant, she said, because it enables individuals to receive needed services locally rather than having to travel to other counties or states for it, adding a touch of comfort and familiarity to the service they are receiving.

“That is something great that we can bring to Ohio County,” Rich said.

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

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