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The Boob Bus "busts" into Montgomery County, IL

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Our small start-up made it into the "Pink Pages" of The Journal News of Co-Founder Rena Vanzo's hometown! Check out the story below, based on Mary (Galer) Herschelman's interview with Rena.

"I call her the Doris Jean," said Rena Vanzo, of her new mobile mammogram and breast ultrasound unit, which is part of her start-up business affectionately named The Boob Bus. A graduate of Hillsboro High School, Vanzo is the daughter of Bruce and Debby Vanzo of Taylor Springs, IL. She named The Boob Bus after her Grandma Doris, a breast cancer survivor. Vanzo, who lives in Salt Lake City, UT, said she got the idea for the new business after turning 40 last year and getting her very first mammogram. "I was a little worried about it, as there is some history of breast cancer in my family, including my grandma and several of her relatives," Vanzo said. I was kind of anxious about it, but I knew I had to do it."

After gearing herself up for the procedure, Vanzo was relieved to find out how easy it was. Her mammogram took about 20 minutes and was painless. She even got a good report. Not long after her mammogram, she was out to dinner with some friends and shared with them her experience with the procedure and how easy it was. "I learned that a lot of women starting skipping their mammograms around COVID," Vanzo said. "And it wasn't just first-timers. People just got out of the habit of getting it done. And that's when I started to become a really big champion of mammograms." Vanzo said she and her friends had been talking about getting massages together or going on a spa day. "And I wondered why we weren't getting together for medically necessary procedures," she said. "Let's make breast health not so taboo, not so isolated. Let's talk with each other about what's so scary and what we learned." And then The Boob Bus was born. "It just kind of started there, and then it snowballed," she said.

Vanzo knew women were already getting together for Botox® appointments, and her hope is that groups of women, even multi-generational groups, could get together and support one another getting mammograms and/or breast ultrasound. With one business partner, Vanzo said breast imaging would be their main priority as they continue to promote women's health. The Boob Bus will also offer Botox® treatments, as a way to help sustain the business, and genetic education & testing for not only breast cancer, but ovarian and colon cancer as well. In starting their business plan, they surveyed more than 400 women in the Salt Lake City area about what services they would utilize, such as Botox®, manicures and pedicures, massages and more. "I got a lot of early feedback that really helped guide our decisions," she said. "It didn't make sense to offer manicures and pedicures because they take an hour or more."

Closing on a small business loan earlier this year, the project has already become a passion for Vanzo and her partner. Vanzo, who has a background in genetics, said that she brings the science and healthcare background while her partner brings the numbers and finance background. His mom was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer, so it has become a top priority for him as well. The 40-foot bus has been ordered, and Vanzo even had a concrete pad poured at her home to park the bus. And while she waits for the customized bus to be finished, Vanzo is in an entrepreneurship Master's Program at the University of Utah three days a week and driving a bus a few shifts a month for the Utah Transit Authority to maintain her commercial driver's license. She's hopeful The Boob Bus will be up and running in January doing mammograms and breast ultrasounds (ultrasounds can be a great-follow up to a mammogram by seeing things that can't always be found on a mammogram, especially for women with dense breast tissue).

Vanzo is also working hard to be able to accept all kinds of health insurance, although that's been a big job. "It's a heavily administrative process," she said. "It's a challenge for no good reason. But I'm not giving up. We're not asking for premium pricing. I hope eventually to be in-network with all types of insurance. But we may have to get creative." Once up and running, women will be able to visit the website to find where the Doris Jean will be stationed, and make an appointment. Vanzo hopes to find some places to park it on a regular basis, like pharmacies or grocery stores. Women can book as individuals or as a party. "Wouldn't that be something cool to do with your book club?" Vanzo said. When completed, the bus will basically be split in half. One half will be a private, breast imaging suite for just the patient and the technician. The other half will feature fun seating and an area for not only socializing, but education about women's health as well.

Vanzo said this will remain a priority for her, as breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. She added that only 70% of women in the US are getting their mammogram every year. And Utah ranks 48th out of 50 states for women getting their mammograms. "This is something we really need," Vanzo said. "We need to bring mammograms out in the open and make sure women aren't skipping them." Vanzo said there's times she can't believe this is really happening. "I just know that Grandma Doris would think this was the neatest thing ever," she said. "This whole project has helped me feel so much more connected to her. And I know she would be so proud of me." For the original story in The Journal News, see below!

Pink Pages Hillsboro Journal 10-16-23
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