The words "party" and "mammogram" aren't used in the same sentence often.
More likely, words such as awkward, painful or stressful come to mind when talking about mammograms.
But officials at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet are trying to change that by holding mammogram parties. The events, they say, will hopefully make getting one a little less stressful and prompt women who have been putting off a mammogram to get one.
"Sometimes a little motivation helps," said Jan Ciccarelli, director of marketing and community relations at Provena St. Joseph.
The parties –– imagine the atmosphere of a baby shower in a medical waiting room –– include snacks, games including trivia, goody bags, chair massages, manicures and pedicures. Throughout the party, women go in individually to get their exams.
The hospital held its first mammogram party last year for employees and is now throwing similar events for the public.
"It was such a calming experience," said Cindy Shedosky, a nurse and patient care manager who attended a mammogram party set up for hospital employees late last year. "All of that activity that was done beforehand made it very calming."
Outreach manager Sandy Peterson decided to put together the mammogram parties after hearing of a similar event at sister hospital Provena St. Mary's Hospital in Kankakee. She said that within minutes of sending out an e-mail about the first party, she received 40 responses from women who wanted to take one of the 10 spots available.
Peterson, a breast cancer survivor, hopes the parties will serve as a way to prompt women to get their annual exams.
"I want women to know the sooner you catch things, the more your chances grow to beat it," said Peterson, who also will serve as hostess for the mammogram parties.
Peterson said that though the parties have plenty of fun and relaxing activities, information about breast cancer and early detection also is featured.
Peterson, for example, offers tips on how to do self-exams and brings along gel forms shaped like breasts, with lumps in them, so guests can see how to find the lumps and what they feel like. She also shares her own story about dealing with breast cancer.
"When I talk to the ladies about taking care of themselves, I can tell them this from the heart, and I think that makes a difference," Peterson said.
Now that the hospital is offering the parties to the public, Peterson said she's reached out to local women's groups to spread the word.
The parties, which can be scheduled for weeknights or Saturdays, last about two hours and are designed for groups of 10 women. However, Peterson said, smaller groups can be combined. Women also may sign up individually to be part of a party.
Each woman must be due for her yearly mammogram and have a physician who can review the results. Party participants must present their insurance cards at the time of screening and have no previous history of breast cancer.
For additional information about the mammogram parties, call the hospital at 815-725-7133, ext. 3234.