The ‘mammobus’ — a van designed for providing low cost mammography services — has benefited 1,283 women in more than 10 districts across Tamil Nadu.

An initiative launched to screen women for early signs of breast cancer through relatively low-cost mammograms has found favour with women from across all sections, with the number of persons screened crossing the 1,000 mark in less than a year.

The ‘mammobus’, a van equipped with a mammogram – a screening tool for breast cancer – was launched by the Dr. K. Shantha Breast Cancer Foundation(SBCF) in July 2012. The van, which has till now been towed by a second-hand vehicle, was powered to travel longer distances with a new truck sponsored by Ashok Leyland on Wednesday.

Since its launch in July 2012, 1,283 women have been screened in more than 10 districts in central and south Tamil Nadu. While 118 women had some kind of non-malignant breast disease, three women tested positive for breast cancer. Two preferred to take treatment closer to home but one patient from Aranthangi was treated under the chief minister’s health insurance scheme in Tiruchi. While only one of them had visible signs of breast cancer, it was only through a mammogram that breast cancer was detected in the other two, said K. Govindaraj, Managing Trustee, SBCF. Mammograms can detect lumps and tumours that are not perceptible during physical examination.

Cutting costs

Breast cancer and cervical cancer are the top variants of cancer that are diagnosed in women worldwide. Early detection of breast cancer can help in salvaging the breast which otherwise might have to be removed if the cancer is in an advanced stage. Mammograms that can detect breast cancer early are generally advised for women over 40. But diagnostic cost and inhibitions stand in the way of women opting for regular mammograms.

The foundation has attempted to address both these impediments through the mammobus, which travels to spots where women live or work, for providing an environment different from a hospital and offering the mammograms for both breasts at a total cost of Rs. 500. Mammograms in hospitals cost anywhere around Rs. 2,500 and more. “As the mammobus reaches the doorstep of women, they have lesser inhibitions in coming for a screening,” said Dr. Govindaraj.

The mammobus can be contacted at 0431- 303 1234.