With today’s hectic lifestyle placing more and more demands on our time and attention, many women are putting mammograms and other important health screenings on the “back burner” or overlooking them entirely as they attend to more pressing obligations. This is unfortunate because outcomes for breast cancer tend to be much better when the disease is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stage. And, according to the American Cancer Society, the most reliable way to detect breast cancer early is to get regular screening mammograms.
To ensure that nothing stands in the way of women getting screened for breast cancer in the timeliest manner possible, Mercy Health is now offering mammograms with no requirement for a doctor’s referral at all of their facilities that offer mammography services. “What we’re trying to do through this initiative is remove one more barrier to preventive healthcare for women,” states Sandy Michalski, MBA, BS, RT(R), Director of Diagnostic Services for Mercy Health. “We tend to do things in the moment, so when a woman realizes she’s due for a mammogram, our services are one phone call away. Requiring a doctor’s order means women have to make an additional call and potentially schedule an office visit before they can access this vital screening, which complicates the process unnecessarily and may convince some women that getting a mammogram is more trouble than it’s worth.”
Michalski emphasizes that getting a screening mammogram without a doctor’s referral does not mean the patient’s primary care physician is removed from the process. “The results of the screening are sent to the patient’s doctor, so we prefer that you have a physician we can route them to. However, women who don’t have a primary care physician can still come in for a mammogram and have our team look at the results. We can also help connect them with a doctor through our Health Link system. If any abnormalities are discovered on the mammogram, navigators at the center will work with the patient and the doctor’s office to ensure any required additional testing is arranged,” she says.
There are varying recommendations for when it’s appropriate to start getting screening mammograms, but according to Michalski, a common recommendation for women who are at average risk of developing breast cancer is to begin at age 50 and get annual screenings thereafter. Women who are at increased risk should get their first mammogram at age 40 and work with their doctor to determine the appropriate interval after that.
To schedule a screening mammogram without a doctor’s referral, women can simply call 866-792-7070 and request the Mercy Health mammography facility that’s most convenient to their location. In the local area, options include Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center, Mercy Health – St. Anne Hospital, Mercy Health – St. Charles Hospital, Mercy Health – Perrysburg Medical Center, and Mercy Health – Sylvania Outpatient Imaging. Also, evening and Saturday appointments are available at some of these locations for patient convenience.
Michalski is proud that Mercy Health is the only health system in our region to offer mammograms without a doctor’s referral. “We hope this service will encourage more women in our community to get a screening mammogram because we know how early detection saves lives,” she says.❦