Resources abundant for women in Steamboat

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— The realization of breast cancer can be harrowing.

But there are options for women throughout the Yampa Valley to help ensure they may never have to deal with breast cancer, or if they are diagnosed, to ensure they have the resources necessary to effectively battle the disease.

“We want people to get in the habit of getting checked and making sure everything is OK,” said Allison Whitney, manager for the Granby and Steamboat Springs Planned Parenthoods. “We try to make sure cost is never an issue.”

Between Planned Parenthood, the Visiting Nurses Association and the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project, there are plenty of resources for women.

Since its inception, the local Breast Cancer Awareness Project has distributed more than $300,000 to women and families throughout Northwest Colorado, helping cover costs for mammograms, annual wellness exams, biopsies, wigs, treatment costs, travel costs and childcare among other things. All of the proceeds stay in the Yampa Valley.

Both the VNA and Planned Parenthood offer the Women’s Wellness Connection program.

The program is for women between the ages of 40 and 64. Women can call either place and asked to be screened for the program. To be eligible, women have to be legal citizens, be uninsured or underinsured and be living at or under 250 percent of the poverty level.

For instance, a woman living alone can’t make more than $28,725 in a year. The program pays for a clinical breast exam, pap test and pelvic exam for women between the ages of 40 and 49. For women 50 and older, it pays for a clinical breast exam.

If cancer is detected while a woman is in the program, they are then enrolled in a Medicaid program that covers all costs of fighting breast cancer.

“My way of looking at it is you can’t lose by coming here,” said Kim Boyce, a physicians assistant with the VNA.

The VNA also offers a sliding scale program for all women. Any woman, insured or not insured, can go in, and depending on income level, she can get an exam.

Joyce said on average, between Craig and Steamboat, the VNA sees 175 women a year through the WWC program. On average, they diagnose 10 women with cancer a year.

At Planned Parenthood, annual exams are offered to women, and if they find anything, they refer patients to Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Whitney said they also have programs for women who don’t qualify for the WWC program. Thanks to several grants, including one last year from the 4 Yellow Foundation, Whitney said her organization can help women get exams depending on their income.

The important thing, Joyce and Whitney said, is to make sure to get annual exams and be proactive.

There are plenty of resources in the Valley for women, they said.

“And we try to make sure cost is never an issue,” Whitney said.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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