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Mammovan brings medical exams to remote locations

Sara Thompson
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune The new mammovan was unveiled at Harrah's Lake Tahoe on Wednesday. It is used to bring preventative medical care to remote parts of Nevada.
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A new mammovan might be coming to your town soon.

The $1.6 million vehicle, which sports the latest digital technology for mammograms, made its debut at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe on Wednesday. The mammovan travels all over Nevada, providing mammograms for women in underserved areas.

The program started in 2000, and this new mammovan will replace the original one.

Nevada’s first lady, Dawn Gibbons, attended the Harrah’s event and said that one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the state.

“We all have a story of someone close to us with breast cancer,” Gibbons said.

The mammogram service will help farmers and ranchers in remote parts of the state, who can’t always travel for preventative medical exams, Gibbons said.

The Harrah’s Foundation and the Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. Western Division donated $500,000 to the mammovan, said John Koster, regional president of Harrah’s Northern Nevada operations. The donation spurred contributions from other sources.

“This van is a product of many years of effort,” said Dr. Carl Heard, chief medical officer for Nevada Health Centers Inc.

During the eight years that the previous mammovan served Nevada, 24,000 people were screened and 64 different cancers were detected, Heard said.

The old mammovan had a minor breakdown on Las Vegas Boulevard by Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago, Heard said. That prompted investment in a new mammovan with digital technology, which is an advancement over using film.

The vehicle has three full-time staff members: a driver, technician and greeter. Images are taken in the van, which then are sent to a radiologist. In 48 to 72 hours after digital pictures are taken, a radiologist can review the information and inform the patient as to any abnormalities that need further investigation, said Lonnie Haralson, Nevada Health Centers regional operations director.

“In less than a business week, we have information to contact the patient with,” Haralson said.

The new mammovan is twice as large as the old vehicle and resembles a semi-truck rather than the old RV version.


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