Women in Benewah County will have another opportunity to take care of their health this week.

The radiology lab at Benewah Community Hospital (BCH) will be open for mammography screenings on Saturday, Oct. 16, an extension of its normal hours. Screenings are usually only offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and radiology is usually staffed only through the ER on the weekend, but the hospital will staff an extra technician in the department Saturday so that checkups and emergencies will both be covered.

“Timing is always difficult with work schedules and now school schedules, too, but maybe this option will be appealing and available so that women will come in and get their mammogram done,” said Claudia Schoenick, who works in the lab and is coordinating the event.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms for women age 45 and older, and women with increased risk of breast cancer should begin earlier. The scans will be sent to the radiology group at Kootenai Health to be read, and the results from Saturday should be available Monday, Oct. 18.

BCH recently installed a new 3D mammography scanner, which provides more detail and improves accuracy when used to detect masses or other anomalies in the scan. The technology is the same as those used in bigger hospitals like Kootenai Health, so patients in St. Maries can receive the same level of care without making the drive to Coeur d’Alene.

Schoenick hopes that the improved equipment and access will encourage more women to get their checkup.

“With COVID and a long duration with only a 2D screening available, we unfortunately saw a lot of women lapse in their screenings within the past two years,” she said.

Appointments Saturday will begin at 10 a.m., and they will be scheduled so that patients have plenty of space and time between visits to ensure social distancing. The radiology area will also be less crowded than it is on regular screening days, because fewer patients from other areas of the hospital will have radiology appointments.

The screenings will take about half an hour. To schedule an appointment, call the radiology department at Benewah Community Hospital at (208) 245-7631.

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