In 2016, Nicole Kloss was attending an outdoor work event in Charlotte where a mobile mammography unit in the parking lot was screening patients. She got into a casual conversation with her co-workers about mammograms.
Since she was there already for the event, Kloss figured she’d walk over to get a mammogram. She did that right after her conversation. It turned out to be what she now calls one of the best decisions of her life.
Kloss said the mammogram visit took what seemed like only 10 minutes and a biopsy later showed she indeed had cancer. “Had I not had that conversation, I wouldn’t have hopped on that bus,” said Kloss, 37 at the time, who is a nonclinical employee at Novant Health.
Kloss’ early diagnosis of breast cancer, thanks to the mobile unit, along with a double mastectomy procedure, helped Kloss get her cancer in remission. The new mom didn’t have to endure chemotherapy and radiation that’s often needed for more advanced cancers.
After her double mastectomy, performed by Dr. Peter Turk at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Turk was able to pronounce her cancer in remission. Next up for her was a breast reconstruction procedure with Dr. James Appel.
“All of my surgeons and providers on my care team said if you hadn’t done that and waited, this would have been a totally different situation,” Kloss said. “That’s because what looked to be just the size of the top of a pen from the scan ended up being 3 inches worth of cancer on further screening.”
Mobile mammography patient Nicole Kloss and her family.
The mobile unit experience
Kloss said the mobile mammography unit she visited in Charlotte shared similarities and differences from a regular clinical setting. “It’s very friendly and warm,” she said. “It’s not a sterile, white-walled room. It’s much warmer.”
Sherry Sellers, a mammography technician who works on a mobile mammography unit for Novant Health in the Winston-Salem area, agreed. “We have hardwood floors. We have a little sofa the ladies sit on. We have a registration desk,” Sellers said. “We have the exact same equipment and a private exam room, like if you were to go into an office. It’s just on wheels.”
Sellers said her unit goes to events like the one Kloss attended, parking at various businesses and health fairs. Part of the draw for women is convincing their peers to get mammograms that also happens to accommodate their busy work and life schedules.
She said they also regularly go to low-income or otherwise underserved areas where access to care is limited. “Today, we’re in Yanceyville, North Carolina, almost an hour-and-a-half away, near Virginia,” Sellers said in a phone interview. “For patients in some areas, especially older patients, I don’t know if some would have the means to get to a mammogram clinic, if we weren’t able to come to them.”
Paying it forward
Kloss said she’s thankful for the support of her friends and family, and tries to do what she can to spread the word about the importance of mammograms and mobile mammography.
“I had a list of my girlfriends who I’ve known since school. I immediately picked up the phone and said, ‘I’m going to be OK but you need to get a mammogram,’” Kloss said. “If you saw me when I was diagnosed, I looked completely healthy. I exercised every day. So I tell people to be proactive, don’t wait until you don’t feel good.”
One in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society. The earlier they are diagnosed through mammograms, the better the chances of recovery.
The Women’s Council of Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation is raising money for a second mobile mammography unit to be equipped with the latest 3D mammography equipment to improve breast health access for women in the Winston-Salem community, which currently has a need for more mobile services. To learn more or to donate to the cause, visit here.