In the heart of the Bible Belt, a North Carolina-based company is spreading the gospel that women need to know their bodies, regularly examine their breasts, and receive mammograms yearly after age 40.
Metrolina Outreach Mammography, the brainchild of Jean Griswold, a 48-year-old businesswoman, preaches this message mostly at textile mills in the South, but also at shopping malls, bowling alleys, churches, geriatric centers--wherever women can be found.
"Many of the women we see don't have much formal education. They don't understand they can save their own lives," Ms. Griswold says. Her ideas have met with some resistance. After viewing a video on breast self-examination (BSE), one woman called it "pornographic."
Ms. Griswold calls this attitude a "cultural bias [that suggests] it's a sin to touch yourself. But we have a high compliance rate if we can conduct our educational program. It takes the fear away, and allays superstitions about the danger of x- rays and compression, which some women believe will make a tumor spread."
Metrolina staffers spend half an hour with workers in a plant, for example, teaching them about breast cancer, BSE, and the importance of regular clinical breast exams and mammograms. They distribute brochures and water-proof BSE instructions to hang in the shower.
Then women can schedule a 20-minute visit to the specially equipped van, which contains a wheelchair lift and changing rooms. The films are read by certified radiologists who relay the results to the patient's family doctor.
Among working women, one of the most oft-cited reasons for not getting a yearly mammogram is lack of time. With the mammogram van at the job site, sometimes operating around the clock to accommodate "graveyard shift" workers, "we take away the biggest reason for procrastination," says Ms. Griswold, who will be one of the speakers at this year's annual conference of Industries' Coalition Against Cancer (ICAC) . At the Fort Lauderdale meeting, being held March 30 to April 1, she will discuss her experiences at Metrolina, highlighting the how-to and cost of instituting a mobile van breast cancer screening program.