A 40-foot-long, state of the art van is changing the way women in New York can get mammograms. The ScanVan travels throughout all five boroughs providing thousands of mammograms, clinical breast exams, and care coordination for communities in need, regardless of ability to pay, each year. The ScanVan is just one of the many services provided by Project Renewal, a non-profit that provides health services, transitional and permanent housing and connecting clients to services that match their needs for those without a home throughout the city. Launched in 2007, the ScanVan became the nation’s first mobile mammography clinic and has served thousands of people in New York since then.
On Sunday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., the ScanVan will be at Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn during a Black Lives Matter event providing mammograms to low-income New Yorkers. The events also helps bring awareness to the fact that Black women die at higher rates from breast cancer than white women, according to the CDC. Angela Brunswick, the director of ScanVan, has big plans for 2021 to raise awareness.
“I wish to provide a lot more health education seminars, to different organizations to speak, you know, at different times, just to increase the awareness of the disease,” she said. Each year, more than 4,500 women received free mammograms from the ScanVan, but this year things are different due to COVID-19. After an irregular schedule, the van finally returned in July after four months off the road as the authorities did not deem the care it provided essential. Nationwide, between March 15 and June 16, 285,000 breast exams were missed – a drop of 63% from the average year, research from EHRN found.
Since opening back up, things have been slow for the van compared to last year. Brunswick says the recent events during Breast Cancer Awareness month have kept the van busier, but it’s “hit or miss” depending on the day. If not many have scheduled appointments on a specific day, it could be canceled. It may be hit or miss but the ScanVan is still keeping busy during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Brunswick said they have probably done about 200 screenings so far this month. Due to COVID-19 Brunswick knows that they have to be realistic about setting goals. Project Renewal is hoping to do at least 2,100 mammograms this year, a significant drop from 4,600 the year prior. “I do think we will surpass that goal, but we can’t be sure because if we have a second round of COVID, who knows?” she said.
How does the ScanVan work? The first compartment of the van is where the patient is registered. Then the mammography tech will come out and grab the paperwork, the patient will walk back to the third compartment of the van where a registered nurse will perform the clinical breast exam. On top of the exam, the nurse provides the patient with information on how to conduct breast exams at home, something that not every woman knows how to do. The whole process takes about 20 minutes. One goal Brunswick has for the ScanVan is getting a system up where people can make appointments online. Right now, appointments are made via the phone or email. “Registering a patient, especially a new patient takes a lot of time, but right now it’s just the phone,” she said.” To schedule an appointment for Sunday’s event, call 646-415-7932, or email firstname.lastname@example.org asking for one. Walk-ins are only something they do on occasion. “We just look to empower individuals and families and I think the ScanVan does that by giving women an opportunity to get mammograms for early detection of breast cancer,” Brunswick said. “It’s all aligned with our mission and it’s, you know, we’re proud of.”