'Mammovan' aims to bridge the gap in access to healthcare

Despite juggling chemotherapy appointments with two jobs, MaLeene TaBon feels fortunate to have been diagnosed with breast cancer early.


What you need to know

  • MaLeene TaBon says seeing Mount Sinai's mobile mammography unit in her neighborhood prompted her to get a breast cancer check
  • That mammogram revealed early-stage triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease
  • The “mammovan” is stationed in several areas throughout the city as part of a broader effort by Mount Sinai and the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center to improve access to health care in underserved communities of color

“When [my surgeon] went to check me out, it was too small to even feel for it,” TaBon said. “I'm just really glad I found out when I did.”

TaBon says she was overdue for a mammogram. When she saw Mount Sinai's mobile mammography unit on her East Harlem block last July, she saw an opportunity. A test revealed triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of the disease.

“I was a bit in shock. I was a little devastated, but it didn't really hit me until I talked to the doctor and had a real conversation [about] what exactly it was that he found, and then what were the next steps,” TaBon said.

The “mammovan,” as it is called, is stationed on Third Avenue twice a month. Mount Sinai officials said the unit actually diagnoses more cancers and precancerous conditions per capita than their regular locations.

“Bringing mobile mammography to this community has an incredible impact. Patients feel very comfortable having their mammography done at a facility [or] near a facility they trust,” says Dr. Laurie Margolies, vice president of breast imaging for Mount Sinai Health Systems.

It is part of a broader effort by Mount Sinai and the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center to improve access to health care in underserved communities of color.

“We know that in this community… there are health disparities when it comes to breast cancer in our community,” said Dr. Adam Aponte, interim director of the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center. “We know that white women are more likely to get breast cancer, but black and brown women are more likely to die from breast cancer.”

TaBon's case shows exactly what officials are trying to achieve: reaching patients where they are and giving them the best possible opportunities. According to Mount Sinai, the van diagnosed 43 cancers or precancerous conditions among the approximately 8,000 patients treated in the city last year.

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