Thirty Years of Providing Women’s Health Services: Iredell Women’s Health Center Milestone Reminds to Schedule a Mammogram | Local News
Special for the Record & Landmark
Today, women have more opportunities for breast cancer detection than ever before. Many women now understand the importance of annual mammograms, or at least know they should get screened, and have a general understanding of breast cancer and breast exams. However, in the 1990s that was not the case, at least in Iredell County.
While diagnostic mammograms, breast X-rays used after the patient has certain signs of breast cancer, were commonplace in Iredell County health care, screening mammograms, those routinely given to detect cancer breast cancer in patients without apparent symptoms, were not offered.
In 1992, Iredell Health System saw a community need that needed to be filled – a lack of breast cancer education and screening opportunities for the county’s many women.
Thirty years ago this month, Iredell Health System opened the Women’s Breast Health Center at Crossroads Shopping Center to provide walk-in mammography and breast health education services at a lower cost.
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“When we first opened we were doing breast exams and breast cancer education. If a patient wanted to have their mammogram, they could do it there too,” said Patty Campbell, who has worked at the center as a mammogram technologist since it opened.
After a few years, the center outgrew its small space in the mall. Recognizing the need for expansion, Iredell Health System purchased the Iredell County Health Department building on Hartness Road, adjacent to Iredell Memorial Hospital, in 1997. After an extensive renovation, the health center women’s breast was moved to this place.
In addition to the location change, new diagnostic equipment was purchased for the center, including bone density testing. Stereotactic breast biopsy, a less invasive way to remove tissue for examination, has also been added to the center’s services. In a short time, the number of patients forced to start requiring appointments for all the services of the center instead of walk-in visits.
After a few years at the new location, the center’s name was shortened to Women’s Health Center – the name it bears today.
According to Meredith Ballard, mammography supervisor, in the three decades of operation of the Women’s Health Center, mammography techniques have undergone several changes and advancements, from analog film to digital to 3D projections.
Although there have been advancements in technology, what has not changed is the level of care the center provides.
“We are all very caring and compassionate towards our patients – they come first, and that hasn’t changed. Making them feel comfortable, special and appreciated is our top priority,” said Kim Kilpatrick, mammography technologist at Women’s Health Center.
“We have great teamwork here. Everyone is ready to participate, help and do whatever they can to provide the best care for our patients,” added Ballard.
Schedule your mammogram!
The Women’s Health Center hopes its 30th anniversary will serve as a reminder for women to schedule their annual mammograms.
Since its opening in 1992, the center has performed nearly 227,000 mammograms. Currently, the center sees around 20 to 30 patients a day, Monday through Saturday.
Mammograms are a woman’s best chance of detecting breast cancer at an early stage, when it is often easier to treat. In fact, when breast cancer is detected before it spreads, the average 5-year survival rate is 99%.
According to Dr. Rocco Tritico, a radiologist who has worked with the Women’s Health Center since it opened, a woman should schedule her first mammogram between age 30 and 40 and continue annually.
Getting your mammogram every year is crucial so the radiologist can determine if there are any changes in the breast from year to year.
“The most important mammogram is the one you had before the mammogram you have that day. Everyone’s breasts are different, and sometimes it’s an architectural change, not a lump,” Tritico said.
The center offers 3D mammography, or breast tomosynthesis, which can provide a clearer view of breast tissue. In this type of mammogram, many X-ray images are taken and put together to create a 3D image of the breast.
As part of its initiative to care for the whole community, Iredell Health System has a women’s health fund through the Iredell Health Foundation. The Women’s Health Fund provides support to eligible women who cannot meet the financial obligation for health and preventative services, such as mammograms.
“For those who feel they cannot afford to have their mammogram, please contact us. We welcome all phone calls and can answer your questions,” Kilpatrick said.
The Women’s Health Center offers mammograms upon request. To schedule your appointment, call the center at 704-878-4551.