No Need to Fear Mammograms – Guest Post by Gillian Drummond

In the first of a monthly series looking at the work of TMC’s Breast Health and Education program, Gillian Drummond looks at one of the deterrents women see to getting a mammogram. 

Only 4 out of 10 women eligible for a mammogram in Southern Arizona are getting them. That’s according to the most recent research  collated by Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southern Arizona, one of the organizations that provided funds to Tucson Medical Center’s Breast Center.

For us at Komen SAZ, the burning question is ‘Why?’ Why when awareness about breast cancer seems so high? Why when thousands every year take part in our Race for the Cure at Reid Park? Why when the evidence is so strong that early detection protects against the disease?

Fear of pain – and with it the assumption that mammograms will be uncomfortable – is just one of the deterrents, say the technicians who work at the Breast Center.

But they stress that mammos are not only necessary, they’re vastly improved on the old days.

“They’re quicker, they’re more pleasant,” says Jeanne Wilcoxson, a breast technician there. “Mammograms nowadays take just 10 minutes, compared to the 20 minutes they used to.”

Added to that, they’re more comfortable, says Jeanne. Thanks to leaps in technology, the plastic ‘paddle’ that presses down onto the breast is more contoured to the breast. And women have the option of also using a MammoPad, a soft foam pad that creates a cushion between them and the machine. Staff says theirs is one of just two facilities in Tucson to use the MammoPad.

The staff at the Breast Center also do breast exams which is a chance for some one-on-one education about breast health, says Karen Narum, nurse practitioner at TMC Women’s Health.

With the money Karen and the rest of the staff received from Komen SAZ last year, they had a goal of performing 275 breast exams on women with no insurance.  Thanks to some leftover funding, topped up by the TMC Foundation, they were able to treat 333. “We could probably do two or three times that number if we had the funding,” she says, referring to the increased number of Arizona women being cut from the State’s AHCCCS program, or not being able to afford health insurance.

As for Komen SAZ, the relationship with the Breast Center goes way back. This month marks the 14th anniversary of the Southern Arizona Affiliate funding the center; theirs was among the first grants to be awarded by us. Monies also come from The Avon Foundation and TMC Auxiliary, and the center makes the most of in-kind services from TMC and Radiology Limited.

And it’s not just about the mammos, says Karen. She provides help to patients in navigating what can be a complicated and frustrating healthcare system.

  • The Breast Center is located at TMC Women’s Health Building, 2100 N. Rosemont, Suite 100.
  • Free mammograms are available at Tucson Medical Center for uninsured women age 40 and over.
  • Appointments can be made through TMC Central Scheduling,  520 324 2075.
  • For more info on breast health and where Komen SAZ’s money goes, visit

Next time: Komen SAZ poses questions to the Center’s technicians: like how does having breast implants affect a mammogram?

Making time for screening is an important component of the National Women’s Health Week. Did you schedule your check ups yet?

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