Bonnie’s Bus ready to roll

WVU offering digital mammography in rural areas

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University officials today rolled out Bonnie’s Bus, complete with equipment and staff, poised to begin the trek throughout the state to reach women who lack easy access to mammograms.

Bonnie’s Bus will offer life-saving early detection for breast cancer in a state with the fifth highest mortality rates in the nation.

The bus and mammograms are made possible through a $2.5 million gift of Jo and Ben Statler to the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, part of last year’s $25 million donation to WVU. WVU Hospitals owns and operates the bus.

Named after Mrs. Statler's late mother, Bonnie Wells Wilson, Bonnie’s Bus and the Cancer Center also received $300,000 from Susan G. Komen for the Cure to support outreach to women and follow-up tracking studies and a two-year $400,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to establish a clinical trials network.

“Bonnie's Bus is far more than a mobile digital mammography unit,” said Scot Remick, M.D., director of WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.  “Not only are we building a tremendous research database, but also we are creating networks with doctors and hospitals throughout West Virginia to deliver the care women need. Through Bonnie’s Bus, we will reduce deaths from breast cancer in our state.”

Bonnie's Bus

Dr. Remick added: “Together, Bonnie’s Bus and the Cancer Center at WVU are devoted to improving the cancer care of West Virginians. Collaborative relationships in Martinsburg, Wheeling, Clarksburg and Charleston are well beyond the formative stages, and we plan to engage other new partners.”

In addition to the digital mammography machine, the camperlike, 40 foot long bus is equipped with a patient-education area, a small kitchenette, restroom and waiting area.
Women whose mammograms suggest a need for further diagnosis and treatment will be guided to doctors in their home communities or to hospitals and, most important, to state-of-the-art clinical trials for patients who want access to them. The network will make it easier for women who live far from hospitals or an academic medical center to gain access to investigational drug trials.

The mammograms are not free. But billing to third-parties will be provided, and women who lack insurance will be matched to government or nonprofit charities.
Leading up to the rollout, the Bonnie’s Bus project required months of coordination involving healthcare providers, nonprofit agencies and government officials in communities throughout West Virginia.

“This network is ongoing and will be a constant element of building this program in order to ensure its success,” Remick said.

The Bonnie’s Bus travel plan mirrors West Virginia counties that have the worst breast cancer mortality rates.
McDowell County tops the list. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), death rates are rising in McDowell County, even though rates nationwide and statewide are falling. Mercer County and Mingo County could also be among the first counties visited because their rural nature creates access issues.

According to the NCI, death rates are higher than the national average in other West Virginia counties including Taylor, Marion, Wayne, Mason, Logan, Mineral, Greenbrier, Cabell, Berkeley, Fayette and Jefferson.

Before it begins its travels throughout the state in spring 2009, Bonnie’s Bus must undergo an accreditation process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Quality of images produced as well as recordkeeping and other issues will be judged under the Mammography Quality Standards Act.

On the road, Bonnie’s Bus – an expansion of the Betty Puskar Breast Care Center in Morgantown – will be staffed by a coordinator, a driver and a mammographer.
For information about WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center see www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.

For comparisons of breast cancer rates in West Virginia by county see http://statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/.

For information on Bonnie’s Bus see www.wvucancer.org/bonnie.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 11-4-08

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