For Mary Vines, the glass is always half full. And worry is one feeling she tries to avoid. Having been diagnosed with cancer in both her breasts, Vines chooses to be grateful the disease was caught in early stages thanks to the UAMS MammoVan.
Vines had noticed a flyer on the door of a church she was scheduled to clean. A woman of faith, she asked God, “Are you trying to tell me something?”
“I had been feeling twinges in my breasts for two or three years, but I would put it off because I didn’t have insurance,” she said.
Vines wrote the phone number down and later called to make an appointment. When the van came to Hermitage on Oct. 6, Vines saw mammography technician Heather Buie.
“After she took the first image, Heather said, ‘Ms. Mary, I’ll have to take another picture because I think you may have moved.”
Vines said she knew then that there was something suspicious on the image. “I know I didn’t move,” she said. “You can’t move on that thing.”
The next day, Vine received a call from Sharp Malak, M.D., M.P.H. a radiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Radiology in the College of Medicine and Department of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health.
“He kept apologizing, and I knew his news couldn’t be good,” Vines said. “But I told him I’m okay. I know I will be okay.”
“She had cancer in both breasts,” Malak said. “It’s good that we have the MammoVan to help address the unmet need of so many women going without mammograms.”
The MammoVan screens about 2,000 patients a year. Malak says they’re hoping to increase that number by 100 percent in 2015.
“Mammography is a basic component of preventive health,” Malak said “And we have a third of the state where patients don’t have access. That’s why this service is important.”
Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D. is a breast cancer surgeon and a professor in the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine. Every day she sees patients who are in the advanced stages of cancer.
“I thought, ‘We need to do better,”’ Henry-Tillman said. “When we started evaluating what the biggest problem was 15 years ago, we found that it was the fact that women didn’t have a place to get a mammography. Since then, we have been able to provide the MammoVan service. It has made a big difference.”
For Mary Vines, the difference is personal.
“Instead of coming in with a tumor she could feel, Dr. Malak was able to see it through the mammogram images. That wouldn’t have happened if the MammoVan hadn’t rolled into her county offering the service,” Henry-Tillman said.
Vines says she’s grateful the van made a stop in Hermitage last fall.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere. One hundred miles from Little Rock and 100 miles from Monroe,” Vines said. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t seen that flyer. I just thank God for it. You couldn’t ask anyone to treat you any nicer than the way people have treated me at UAMS. Everyone has gone out of their way to help us.”
Since its existence, more than 15,000 women have been screened on the UAMS MammoVan. It is paid for in part by the Arkansas Cancer Coalition, State Legislature and support from the Walmart Foundation, Komen Foundation and private donors including Ashley County Cares.