LOGAN, Utah — Utah ranks among the lowest in the nation for women getting screening mammograms. Logan Regional Hospital and Bear River Health Department are working to change that statistic and help save lives through early breast cancer detection.
Wendy Gaddis, board certified mammographer and clinical lead of Women's Imaging Services at Logan Regional Hospital, has been giving women mammograms for over three decades. "I am passionate about what I do because we make such a difference in our patients lives every day," she said. "I have had many women come back to thank me personally whose breast cancer we diagnosed and treated early due to screening mammograms. They feel we helped save their lives."
Four in 1,000 women have breast cancer right now and don’t know it. Multiple national and international studies confirm that screening mammograms save lives. For example, a recent significant Australian study, reported in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed that breast cancer mammogram screenings can reduce deaths by 49 percent by detecting breast cancer in its most treatable stages.
Average-size lumps found by regular mammograms are exponentially smaller than lumps found when women do not receive mammograms. With early detection, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer victims is 98 percent.
Utah, Idaho, and Montana have the lowest mammogram screening rates in the United States. Utah ranks last of all 50 states for the percentage of women over 40 with insurance getting screening mammograms.
Last month, a questionable European study scrutinized mammograms and breast cancer risk for a small number of young women. "The study was based on non-scientific data and patient recollection. It only pertained to a small percentage of women (0.25 percent), under the age of 30 who carry the rare breast cancer gene (BRCA)," said Blake C. Mortenson, M.D. radiologist and medical director of Women's Imaging at Logan Regional Hospital. "Regardless of this study, women 40 and over need a screening mammogram every year."
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends yearly mammograms for women starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. Women with high a family history of breast cancer may need a screening mammogram before the age of 40. The ACS also recommends clinical breast exams (CBE) about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over. Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.
“We try to educate the patients we serve and hope they will in turn educate their family and friends on the importance of breast cancer awareness and early detection,” said Gaddis.
Most insurance plans cover screening mammograms. For those who do not have insurance, Logan Regional partners with the Bear River Health Department to provide women without insurance an annual screening mammogram, breast exam or pap exam.
To raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection, Bear River Health Department is joining with the Utah Department of Health to host a Utah Mammography Action Summit on Thursday, November 8, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 South West Temple.
For details about no-cost or low-cost mammograms for women who qualify, call the Bear River Health Department at (435) 792-6500.