HEALTH

The Boob Bus’s mission is to improve Utah’s mammogram rate

Feb 15, 2024, 5:49 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2024, 8:28 am

SOUTH JORDAN —A high number of Utah women don’t get mammograms, and a genetic counselor at the University of Utah is trying to change that.

According to a 2023 study, Utah is one of the three lowest states for mammogram screening rates. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in the state.

“This isn’t something we should be bashful about,” Rena Vanzo said. “Why not make mammograms fun?”

Vanzo is a mom, genetic counselor, and master’s student. She created the Boob Bus, a mobile screening unit, as part of the University of Utah’s business creation entrepreneur program.

But it was the state’s statistics that inspired the bus.

“Utah ranks 48 out of 50 states for mammogram compliance,” Vanzo said. “So our women aren’t going as often as they should. They’re busy.”

Women like Sandra Johnson. She hesitated to get screened.

“I have implants, and so I’ve just been terrified of what that would be like, especially because they’re older, and so I was just worried that that would cause problems,” Johnson said.

Boob Bus screening

The mobile mammography unit can also screen women who have dense breast tissue and test genetics. (Shelby Lofton, KSL TV)

Technologist Niki Keene said there are many reasons why a woman is nervous to get screened. She used to work in a hospital.

“For me, it was hard to take the time. I felt like I wanted to take with my patients,” Keene said.

Keene said the bus allows her to give each woman the time and care she needs.

“We also have a bus for screening ultrasound for women who have dense breast tissue,” she explained.

For everyone on board, breast cancer is personal.

“Women’s health impacts men everywhere in our community,” co-founder Mike Koch said. “I have three daughters. I have breast cancer and ovarian cancer in my family.”

It’s something Johnson thinks about a lot.

“My mom has stage four breast cancer, and so I’ve got a lot of people that are, have been pushing, it’s been pushing for me to get this,” Johnson said as she wiped away tears.

The project’s drivers hope to eliminate some of the nerves women have around screenings, so they added some fun.

“You’re waiting where you can get Botox or have a paraffin dip or do a hot towel,” Keene said.

Vanzo is working on partnering with clinics, gyms, libraries and grocery stores so women can get screened when and where it’s convenient.

“Let’s make a mobile unit that can be booked by women having a private party, maybe during a book club,” she said.

The bus also offers genetic testing. They want women to get screened as often as they should.

“A really easy saliva test kit to check if a woman has one of these increases in cancer,” Vanzo said. “Even if we just save one person, that’s not little to us, that’s big,”

They’re traveling anywhere in the state to the women ready to get the job done.

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The Boob Bus’s mission is to improve Utah’s mammogram rate