Mind the Mammo Mamas

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Founders Joanna Atencio, left, and Melanie Cruise hit on the idea for Mammo Mamas while commuting to Shiprock, N.M., several days a week. Josh Tischer of Code Pyro designed a website and apps for them.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

Two Durango mammographers have launched an interactive website to educate women – and men – on the wisdom of having regular mammograms as an early warning system for breast cancer.

Joanna Atencio and Melanie Cruise are certified mammographers who practice their craft at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., and elsewhere.

They’re the Mammo Mamas who have a website, an Android app and a soon-to-be-available iPhone app to educate and provide support for people with breast cancer.

Look for them at www.mammomamas.com.

“We’re using the latest technology to spread awareness and create an online community where people can get facts about mammography,” Atencio said. “People call us all the time about mammographies, so we decided to put as much information as possible online.”

Their slogan is “Early Diagnosis, Early Cure.”

Atencio is a certified radiology technologist, who just received her 20-year pin at Mercy Regional Medical Center. She was director of the mammography department at one time.

Cruise has experience in mammography, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. She worked at Mercy for nine years before starting her own mammography consulting business focusing on accreditation by the Food and Drug Administration and the American College of Radiology.

Cruise and Atencio hit on the Mammo Mamas idea while driving three days a week together to Shiprock.

Breast cancer is scary enough without the misgivings and lack of knowledge surrounding the disease, the mammographers say.

The website and two apps, developed by Josh Tischer at Code Pyro, aims to dispel fear and educate people afflicted with breast cancer about their options.

Information on the apps is succinct. The website is more expansive.

The list of topics includes how to prepare for a breast examination, how to do a self-examination, medical terminology and what a call back after a mammogram can mean.

“Anyone with a bad mammogram tends to think she’s dying,” Atencio said. “But don’t panic.”

A maximum of 10 percent of women are called for retesting after a mammography, they say. Eighty percent of those retested get a clean bill of health.

Radiology, the foundation for mammography, is always improving, Cruise said. Few radiologists use film anymore, she said.

Most breast examinations use digital technology, she said.

The Mammo Mamas website also offers a GPS site that shows the location of 8,600 mammography centers across the nation approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The electronic sources of information also have a list of questions to ask doctors, a section for men and the testimonials of breast cancer survivors.

About 1 percent of men develop breast cancer, the Mammo Mamas say.

A line of Mammo Mamas T-shirts, totes and hats are available to spread the word about the value of regular checkups.

A self-check monthly and a clinical examination yearly for women older than 50 years old is advised, the Mammo Mamas say.

An app will send an alert as a reminder.


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