BUFFALO, NY - In an effort to reach out to the medically underserved, three area groups have banded together to underwrite the cost of delivering a specialized service that will mobilize a pair of digital mammography machines into various Western New York communities.
The cancer-screening service, handled by specially-designed bus, is being financed by the Erie County Medical Center Lifeline Foundation, First Niagara Financial Group Inc., and the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association. The entities donated $750,000 to buy and equip the bus.
Western New York Breast Health will manage the bus while Erie County Medical Center Lifeline Foundation will own and maintain the vehicle.
The bus is one of a just a handful in operation around the country and comes at a time when Western New York has one of the highest reported rates of new breast cancer patients among upstate communities. It also has one of the highest rates of breast cancer-related deaths.
Officials said all women are welcome for mammographies on the bus, including those with insurance or those covered by Medicaid or Medicare, as well as the uninsured. Exams will require a prescription, but women without a primary-care physician can obtain a script at the bus. Appointments will be necessary and an 800-number will be established, as will website links.
"This is a great community program that will actually save lives," said Jody Lomeo, ECMC's CEO and Foundation board member. "We hardly finished our presentation when the Sabres alumni and First Niagara said 'yes' and stepped up to fund this. We all know someone touched by breast cancer and we all want to see earlier diagnosis and treatment."
The bus will tour inner-city as well as rural areas of the region. The 45-foot bus will be parked at festivals, health fairs, churches, and community centers to mention a few. ECMC's bus is expected to test more than 1,500 in its first year.
"We say the bus is for the "underserved", it is really for the "never-served"," said John Koelmel, First Niagara president and CEO. "We all know that the key to surviving any cancer, but especially breast cancer, is early detection and treatment. What better way to provide this care than by saying, 'You can't get to us?' 'Then we'll come to you.'"