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FIU's Linda Fenner 3D Mobile Mammography Center offers free screening for uninsured

The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin getting yearly mammograms at age 40. But when a 56-year-old woman walked into Florida International University’s Linda Fenner 3D Mobile Mammography Center, she admitted that she had never gotten a mammogram. Then, when nurse clinician Lorraine Nowakowski asked her to sign some consent forms to begin the mammogram, the woman started to leave.

“She had told me: ‘I have to leave right now.’ And I asked, ‘Well, why?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know how to read,’” says Nowakowski, an RN and clinical director of operations for FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. “And then I said, ‘Well, I can read you the consent forms."

FIU’s Linda Fenner 3D Mobile Mammography Center, the region’s only free mobile mammography center, opened in 2014. Its mission is to serve Miami-Dade County women who are uninsured, underinsured or who lack health literacy. The center also works with a breast health navigator to ensure their patients go through the steps they need if their mammogram results come back inconclusive.

“Our breast health navigator works with our patients every step of the way through survivorship, regardless of any barriers. If the patient needs a prescription, our doctor will sign it for them. The beauty of our program is that we’re a full-service program — and we’re only five people,” says Nowakowski.

To date, the center has screened more than 6,000 patients and has found breast cancer in 35 women. “These women can’t afford $50 mammograms because it’s all they have for groceries or household needs,” Nowakowski says. “Nobody does what we do,” she says. “We really get to the heart of our community. We want to change the way these women are treated.”