CARIBOU, Maine — Health care for women in Aroostook County will take another step forward next month when Cary Medical Center officially debuts a new imaging center that will allow women to receive innovative, quality care closer to home.
The Caribou hospital has completed construction on its Women’s Imaging Center, which will offer the newest types of digital mammography and stereotactic biopsy to patients. Stereotactic biopsy, a minimally invasive diagnostic procedure, is also available at The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle.
Financing for the $800,000 project was realized through the largest capital campaign ever conducted by the Jefferson Cary Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising and charitable arm. The facility is planning to showcase the center during a public open house from 10 a.m. to noon on Feb. 2.
The new center provides a warm and comfortable spa-like environment.
It also features a breast patient navigator system to assist patients who face obstacles in seeking out the care they need.
The navigator is an individual trained to help each patient work around barriers that can prevent her from seeking or following recommended breast health guidelines, according to information provided by the National Consortium of Breast Centers. Such barriers may include a lack of insurance or access to care, fear of a positive diagnosis, child care difficulties, transportation issues and more. The navigator works with the patient and her health care provider to make sure they follow up and get the tests they need in a timely way.
Leslie Anderson, manager of radiology and rehabilitation services at Cary Medical Center, said that the navigator is designed to take as much stress as possible off the patient.
“Women who have a suspicious finding in a mammogram or who may be diagnosed with breast cancer are in a state of fear,” Anderson said late last week. “In this condition women often do not hear anything but the word ‘cancer’ and they need someone there for additional support. Our navigator provides this critical advocacy and works with the patient to make sure services are made available quickly and to eliminate any barriers to care that might exist.”
Kim Wilcox, a radiologic technologist and also a mammography technologist, will serve as the navigator in the imaging center. She already has gotten a chance to do some preliminary work with the first patients who have visited the imaging center and said she is pleased with the early response.
“The response has been wonderful,” she said. “I have helped women with transportation issues and child care needs. I believe that the women I have worked with feel a strong sense of support and this reduces the anxiety they may feel.”
Shawn Laferriere, chief of radiology at the hospital, said that staff members include radiologists, pathologists, surgeons and primary care physicians who work together in a team approach.
The center will provide direct access to the radiologist the same day that a woman comes back to the hospital for a follow-up mammogram.
“We understand that women who are called back for a repeat study may be terribly frightened,” said Laferriere. “Our service will have the radiologist speak directly to the patient that same day and let her know what the study has found, and what we believe are the next steps.”
The breast patient navigator works with the patient even if she chooses to go elsewhere for follow-up care, services or treatments. The navigator will help with referrals, establish communication and make sure the patient’s needs are met.
An earlier version of this story requires correction of information provided by Cary Medical Center about the Caribou hospital’s new Women's Imaging Center. Stereotactic breast biopsies are available in Aroostook County not just at the new center, but also at The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle.