As a cancer patient or caregiver, you may have questions and concerns about how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 when you have to make necessary visits to medical facilities. It’s quite natural to feel anxious about exposure since your cancer or your treatment may mean that you are at a higher risk for catching COVID-19 or reacting more seriously if you do get infected. At ARA we are committed to making your imaging visit as safe as possible.
What services are available at ARA?
ARA is offering our full array of imaging exams, including mammography screenings. If you have put off getting your screening mammogram because of COVID-19, it is important that you make your appointment right away. Especially if you are a high-risk patient, it is vital that you get your mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI on the schedule recommended by your medical team to make sure that should any disease develop it is caught early.
To those of you who are going through the diagnostic process to see if you have breast cancer, you do not have to worry about whether it is safe to come to ARA for your appointments. Please be assured that we are taking the time to thoroughly clean and disinfect our mammography and biopsy procedure rooms between patients for your safety. Technologists are required to wear a mask plus either goggles or face shields and we have many other processes in place to protect you.
How is ARA making imaging centers safe during COVID-19?
ARA has made adjustments to our care processes to minimize the spread of coronavirus and keep you safe. We have had safety protocols in place since the beginning of the epidemic and have found them quite effective in protecting both patients and employees. These include:
- Screening all patients, visitors, and employees who enter the clinic. Screening stations have been set up at every clinic to ensure that anyone entering is not at high risk for COVID-19 infection. Everyone entering the clinic will be surveyed for contact with COVID-19 and asked about symptoms.
- Requiring that all employees, patients, and visitors wear masks while in the imaging centers. For the safety of all, we ask that you do not wear bandanas, neck gaiters, or masks with valves as these have been shown to be less effective than surgical masks or 2-layer cotton masks.
- Observing social distancing practices whenever possible. This includes managing the number of people in our waiting rooms. You may be asked to wait in your car in order to keep our waiting rooms clear and safe.
- Consistent and thorough cleaning of the imaging centers, including cleaning imaging rooms between patients, cleaning surfaces and restrooms regularly, paying attention to details like providing disinfected pens to patients and minimizing contact between people while working out payment details.
- Requiring any visitors who are not essential caregivers to remain outside the imaging center to observe social distancing.
- Not allowing food or drink in the imaging center. This helps ensure that everyone is wearing masks at all times. If any food or drink is required for your imaging, it will be provided by ARA.
What is it like visiting ARA?
At ARA, we have carefully thought out every aspect of your visit to be sure that we provide the most sanitary experience possible. We have so much respect and care for our patients and we are committed to creating a safe environment.
When you make your appointment with ARA, we will ask you some screening questions to see if it’s possible you have been exposed to COVID-19. If you are experiencing any COVID symptoms during scheduling, you will be transferred to a specialized team to discuss imaging options.
Please arrive at the imaging center with your mask. You will need to plan to come into the center on your own, even if you have been brought by a friend or family member, in order to maintain a safe number of people in the imaging center. Essential caregivers are allowed to enter the imaging center. No food or drink is allowed in the center, so please leave that in your car.
Scheduled patients will go through a pre-screening sent to their mobile phone. ARA will then reach out when it’s time to check you in. When entering the clinic, you will be greeted by our screeners, who will verify your answers to the pre-screening. If you did not have a previously scheduled appointment, they will ask you about any symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19. If the waiting room has reached the limit of safe occupancy, you may be asked to wait in your car, where ARA will contact you by text when you need to enter the imaging center.
Once in the center, ARA maintains social distancing by having chairs spaced at least 6 feet apart and having markers on the floor for those standing in line. There is a plexiglass barrier between you and the front desk employee who will help you check in. Pens and clipboards are cleaned after every use and ARA employees will have you swipe your own credit or debit card. Hand sanitizer is available for you to clean your hands.
Proper social distancing at ARA plus the assurance that everyone is wearing effective masks means that the space is very safe for you.
When you are called back for your exam, you will be escorted by your technologist who will be masked and have freshly cleaned hands. All exam rooms are thoroughly disinfected between patients, so you can be sure the surfaces you touch, such as parts of the mammogram unit or exam table, have been sanitized.
Once we get the exact imaging or procedure your doctor requested, you will be able to leave knowing that your safety has been protected at every step.
What are symptoms of COVID-19?
Part of staying safe is knowing what the symptoms are so you can avoid situations where people are showing possible effect of the virus or so you can get immediate medical attention for yourself if you show symptoms. These include cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
What can I do to help ensure my safety when leaving home?
Whether you are going for a medical appointment, the grocery store, or an outing, following these steps from the CDC website can help you to lower your chances of catching COVID-19.
- Wash hands often for 20 seconds and encourage others to do the same. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
- Wear a cloth face covering in public.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, knobs, and other places touched often.
- Stay six feet apart from others.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
For information on COVID-19 in the Austin area, visit the City of Austin website: https://www.austintexas.gov/department/covid-19-information/orders-rules
Other questions and concerns?
ARA is here to help you. Please give us a call at (512) 453-6100 and our scheduling team can talk to you about any special accommodations you may need or concerns you have.
Arthy Saravanan, MD
Breast Imager at ARA Diagnostic Imaging
Dr. Arthy Saravanan has been a breast imager at ARA Diagnostic Imaging since 2017. She received her MD from Indiana University School of Medicine, then did residencies at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan, and Aultman/Mercy Hospital/Northeast Ohio Medical University. Her fellowship year in breast imaging was spent at the University Health Network at the University of Toronto. Dr. Saravanan and her husband live in Austin with their two daughters. She follows interests in track, badminton, and Indian dance choreography and was named Mrs. India International in 2014 for her many and varied accomplishments.