If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, it follows that a party can make a mammogram manageable.
While many women over 40 intend to get an annual mammogram, it can become that extra appointment that’s hard to squeeze into an already tight schedule. That’s the primary reason Inland Imaging began providing mammogram parties in 2009.
“We did some research and found out that women weren’t coming to get a mammogram because they were uninsured, didn’t have time or didn’t have money. We are going to try to combat every one of these,” said project coordinator Kayla Dahmen, noting that the biggest barrier was time. But with an evening party, even the busiest women can multitask their mammograms by mixing it with girls’ night fun.
At a recent party in the Valley Inland Imaging office, the downstairs waiting room filled with women who’d come for a mammogram. But rather than waiting in silence while flipping through magazines, they mingled over hors d’oeuvres, chatting and catching up with each other.
If any of the women were anxious about getting screened for breast cancer, it didn’t show, perhaps because they could melt away the tension by heading to the next room for a free chair massage.
For ZeeZee Leeflang, a mammogram party is an annual event. She’s attended three, the last two as a hostess. “It’s a great way to have one (a mammogram). Everyone needs one so it’s good to get together with girlfriends and get something done,” she said. “This is way better than trying to rush during the day.”
In fact, several of her friends had so much fun at last year’s party, they began inquiring during the summer if she would host another one this year. They all wanted to be on the invitation list.
At that party two hostesses combined their groups to ensure they had at least 15 women. It was also the third mammogram party for co-hostess Teresa Springer.
“It’s a lot less stressful way to get a mammogram done,” she said, waving her hand at the party in progress. “You see people you don’t get to see very often. It’s fun. People come to visit and socialize and the next thing you know, your name is called.”
Since a mammogram only takes a few minutes, most of the evening is a fun-filled time with friends.
For each party, Inland Imaging provides invitations, appetizers, and soft drinks and arranges for free chair massages. They also provide the hostess with a $100 gift card to an area business, as a referral thank you.
To host a party, a woman just needs to get together a group of 15 to 20 eligible woman – they must be at least 40 years old and due for a mammogram and have a referring physician to receive the results. If a woman doesn’t have insurance, Inland Imaging makes a referral to the Breast Cervical Health Program for assistance.
“We’ve never had a woman be turned down and if anything is caught, they will help see you through your treatment,” said Dahmen.
If she wants, the hostess can supply alcohol and other touches that make the party even more personal. Springer, for example, encouraged her friends with home-based businesses to use the opportunity to show and sell their wares. She had women bring everything from handbags and jewelry to candles, making the event a low-key networking opportunity.
Since their inception, the parties have been a successful way for women to schedule this necessary health care screening tool, said Dahmen. “Women are more willing to do something fun with friends. And if women come together in a close-knit group to get a mammogram, in the case of anything happens, they are there to comfort.”
Inland Imaging holds about two to three mammogram parties each month, said Dahmen, with more during October. The parties can be scheduled on weeknights between 5:30 and 8 p.m. at any of their mammography locations – Valley, Manito, Deer Park, Holy Family and Sacred Heart.
According to the women who attend, the fun factor is the biggest draw, because they can conveniently combine a health care to-do with a lot of camaraderie.
“Once you’ve been to a mam party, you’ll never want to have your mammogram done another way,” said Springer. “It’s the best way to do it.”