During October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, staff at the Franciscan Health Breast Center Michigan City emphasize their work to remove barriers and enhance opportunities for early detection.

Mammography technician Julie Lemon says women should get a mammogram at age 40, or earlier if their family has a history of breast cancer.  For a screening mammogram, an order from a doctor is not needed, but patients must have a doctor they have seen in recent years to take the report.

Mammography centers in Michigan City and Chesterton are equipped with the latest technology and staffed by five imaging specialists, each with over 28 years of experience in X-ray or ultrasound. “We have a very experienced staff to care for you,” said Vice President of Clinical Support Services Jill Nygren.

That staff includes new lead breast radiologist, Nancy Emelife, MD, who served her fellowship for breast imaging at Stanford School of Medicine.

Breast Navigator Tina Sandilla, RN, says Dr. Emelife comes to Franciscan with creative ideas for improving the patient experience. “She’s graced with a very pleasant and calming demeanor, which, in my experience, is somewhat contagious,” she said.

“Patients come from all different knowledge levels. Dr. Emelife patiently explains test and procedures to the patient and answers all questions until the patient is comfortable,” Sandilla said. “As healthcare providers, we know that anytime we can decrease a patient’s anxiety, it results in an overall better patient outcome.”

Having a dedicated radiologist for Michigan City and Chesterton mammography centers provides these communities with the optimum continuum of care, from screening through surgery. Sandilla said she hopes the addition of a female physician for the breast center will inspire more women to call and schedule their mammograms.

She also emphasizes that finances or lack of insurance should not keep women from seeking care. “We have grants to cover costs for screenings, diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies.”

Assistance includes the Indiana Breast Cancer Awareness Trust (IBCAT) and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP). Locally, the Michigan City United States Bowling Congress Bowling Association holds a Bowl For The Cure event each year to help pay for mammograms and follow-up treatment. The funds also provide supplemental services for patients, such as wigs, gas and grocery gift cards and other needs.

Language barriers may also discourage women from seeking care, but Franciscan Health has MARTTI, a language interpretation system that can break down those barriers with certified medical interpreters in 250-plus languages.

To schedule a screening mammogram, call (219) 877-1980. Uninsured patients can find out if they qualify for assistance by calling (219) 877-1981.