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Detroit mom Taura Brown is at high risk for breast cancer, but she postponed a mammogram for three years until she saw the big blue and white bus with the word “mammography” on the side.

The 42-foot long Anthony L. Soave Family Mobile Mammography and Health Screen Center was officially launched at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday and sprang into action immediately to give potentially life-saving mammograms to several women who stopped by.

“I got into the car to go to lunch with my boss, and I saw the bus,” said Brown, 37. “I’m almost embarrassed to say how long it’s been, because I’m supposed to be getting a mammogram every year.

“My grandmother died of breast cancer, and it’s prevalent on my father’s side.”

The $1 million clinic-on-wheels was a gift from Anthony Soave, president and CEO of Soave Enterprises, a Detroit-based company with holdings in a diverse array of businesses. The bus will primarily focus on serving women in Detroit neighborhoods, who often go far too long without breast cancer screening.

Dr. Cheryl Wesen, medical director of the St. John Providence Health System Breast Care Program, hopes hundreds of Detroit women will be attracted by the bus, which will park at Detroit churches, community centers and schools at least five days a week.

A mammography is an X-ray image of the breast that can detect cancer before women have symptoms. It can also find tiny deposits of calcium, called microcalcifications, that can indicate the presence of cancer.

Based on current breast cancer incidence rates, experts estimate that about one out of every eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time during her life, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“Screening and mammography save lives, and many people don’t have access — they don’t have insurance, they don’t have transportation,” Wesen said.

Breast cancer is less prevalent in African-American women than in women of other races, but it’s often diagnosed later, she said.

“It’s frequently found at at a later stage when we have few treatment options,” Wesen said.

Organizations can call 844-757-6266 (844-SJP-MAMM) to schedule a visit from the bus; it’s already booked through mid-June. Women should come prepared with a driver’s license and insurance information; St. John Providence will provide assistance for women who are uninsured or whose coverage is limited.

Ursula Thomas, 49, postponed her mammogram after losing insurance coverage during a divorce. She finally got it done Wednesday on the mobile mammography bus.

“I did mine this morning,” Thomas said Wednesday. “I didn’t have one for five years, maybe even more.”

KBouffard@detroitnews.com

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