Stella the mammogram bus on a mission to screen more women

Posted at 2:02 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-07 21:18:32-05

IDAHO — The second most common cancer for women in the United States is breast cancer and outcomes are better when detected early, according to the CDC.

Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center is making sure more women, especially in rural communities, have easy access to mammograms. And they are doing it with Stella, the bright pink, 40-foot long 3-D mammogram bus.

“She’s beautiful inside and out,” said Jackie Babb, Women’s and Children’s Service Line Director at Saint Alphonsus.

Stella is equipped with the latest 3-D mammogram technology, the gold standard for detecting breast cancer.

"This modality offers improved sensitivity and specificity in imaging which ultimately improves the quality of images that the radiologist view," Babb said. "By doing so it catches breast cancer in its earliest stages and also reduces unnecessary follow-up diagnostics."

A similar bus detected Emily Richards breast cancer four years ago.

"I was 42 and it had been some years since I had that first mammogram and that little thought didn’t go away, but I was busy and it wasn’t a priority to me," Richards said. "I thought I didn’t have cancer I am too young for that. But I finally decided that the next time the bus comes to Kuna which is where I live ill go in and have my mammogram."

But when the bus came around she said she almost didn't go because of how busy she was.

"It is just like any other medical appointment and I left the bus that day thinking nothing of it other than that I was a good girl and done what I was supposed to do and have a mammogram," Richards said.

It wasn't until a few days later she received a call that she needed to come back for some more tests.

“The computer had caught the change from my original mammogram to when I had gone on the bus and seen something had gone on there," Richards said. "She told me that it has every indication that it looks like cancer and that was the first time that I had heard the C-word."

After four years of cancer treatment, Richards thanks the mobile mammogram bus for saving her life.

"I am still here because you know what turns out my cancer was small. It was caught early because I went on that bus and they found it with the mammography equipment that was on there," Richards said.

Stella joins Saint Alphonsus' other mammogram bus, Lola, because of the record-setting $703,000 raised at the 2019 Festival of the Trees in downtown Boise.

Together the two will give more women easy access to screenings all across Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon.

"It will allow us to get in the rural markets to address health inequities," said Odette Bolano, President and CEO of Saint Alphonsus Health System.

“As I look at his bus behind me, I don’t just see four tires, I don’t just see an engine, I just don’t see beautiful paint. I see lifesaving equipment," Richards said. "And as I think of it going about in Southwest Idaho in our own little corner of the world it is going to go find other women like me whose lives are going to be saved."

Stella will be at Terry Reilly Health Services in Nampa on Tuesday, March 2.

To schedule an appointment or to find out when the mammogram buses will be in your area call (208) 367-8787.

When arriving for your appointment you will need to show ID, an insurance card, and masks are required. If you don't have insurance, Saint Alphonsus has grants available for those who qualify.

For more information visit Saint Als website.