Two and a half years ago, a large portion of Concho Valley women found themselves falling through the cracks of the health care system. These uninsured or underinsured women had no access to mammograms—a vital health screening which can help detect breast cancer.

“Mammograms can and do save lives,” said Dr. Linda Ross, Regional Director of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health (LWBIWH). “Women everywhere, regardless of income or geographic location, deserve access to this screening.”

With this need in mind, a team of grant writers led by Dr. Ross applied for a grant through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Once the grant was approved, Access to Breast Care for West Texas in the Concho Valley (ABC4WT-CV) was formed.

The program links West Texas women age 40 and over (and 39 and under if symptomatic) in the 14 counties comprising the Concho Valley to available resources for breast cancer prevention and screening, including mammograms, breast exams, biopsies, transportation, and other assistance.

According to Shayla Grelle, Program and Clinical Manager of ABC4WT-CV, since the program’s inception in March 2012, it has worked to close the gaps in access to breast health services in the Concho Valley.

“There wasn’t anything for the ‘donut hole’ population,” said Grelle, referring to those who earned too much to qualify for any available aid programs but still required financial assistance to afford breast cancer screening. “These women just didn’t have the help they needed.”

ABC4WT-CV exists to cover this gap. For example, under the program a family of four can have an income of up to $92,200 and still qualify for financial assistance for mammograms and other breast health services.

In the two and a half years since the grant funded program began, 787 women have received mammograms, and 17 have been diagnosed with breast cancer. According to Grelle, the majority of those diagnosed detected the disease in the early stages, which can decrease the cost and length of treatment.

Grelle also emphasized that without the education and financial assistance ABC4WT-CV provides, it’s likely that many of the women served through the program would not have sought breast health services.

“In so many families, women are the caregivers,” she said. “They put their needs on the back burner. If they aren’t educated about the need for breast cancer screening, then they may go undiagnosed and untreated.”

For Berkeley Puckitt, Administrator at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health, the Institute developed the program to ensure that doesn’t happen. “These services are needed here, because we don’t have another program in San Angelo focused on breast cancer detection,” she said.

“With ABC4WT-CV, the funding stays local and women in our community are served. This program is one of a kind in the Concho Valley.”

To find out if you or a loved one are eligible for assistance from ABC4WT-CV, call (325) 942-2531 or visit http://www.abc4wt.org for more information.