Why Having a Mammogram is So Important

According to the Utah Cancer Control Program (UCCP), the percentage of Utah women age 40 or older who reported receiving a mammogram has been below the U.S. rate for more than a decade. In 2014, 64 percent of Utah women over the age of 40 had received a mammogram in the last two years compared with 72 percent of women nationwide.

“Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women in the United States and the leading cause of female cancer deaths in Utah,” said Brenda Nelson, spokesperson for the UCCP. It is important for all women to receive mammograms, but women in Utah should be even more vigilant about getting tested.

Jolene Pollock, who directs patient account services at Intermountain Garfield Memorial Hospital, visited Dr. Daren Gatherum in 2013 for her annual women’s physical. That year, the goal in Dr. Gatherum’s office was to make sure every woman had gotten their mammogram.

“They just kept hounding me!” Jolene said. “And I kept on ignoring the messages, until finally I thought, ‘All right, I really should get one.’ So I got my first mammogram ever there at the Women’s Expo in St. George in 2013 at our Intermountain mobile mammo unit.”

In August of 2014, Jolene and her family were planning for a big riding trip on their Harleys up through Yosemite National Park. About that time, Jolene noticed a lump in her breast that hurt, about 2-3 centimeters in size, and prominent enough it could be seen.

Jolene credits Dr. Gatherum’s office for helping to save her life. “Because I had gotten that mammogram in 2013, when I went in to have the lump checked, the staff had something to compare the images to. Because it wasn’t there in 2013, and then was so large in 2014, it helped them to know this was a rapid growth and so they acted quickly.” Jolene went in for an ultrasound, and said she just had a feeling that whatever the growth was, “It was going to totally change my life.”

Jolene received a biopsy on the cyst and on August 10, 2014, she learned her diagnosis through the MyHealth app. Jolene was diagnosed with grade 3 invasive ductal cell carcinoma. An aggressive game plan to fight the cancer was quickly put together by the oncologists at Intermountain, which included surgery, six rounds of chemo every three weeks, and radiation.

Instead of her family riding their Harleys through Yosemite as planned, they all rode over to Cedar City and circled Jolene’s bed for a family prayer before the surgery.“They were in all their leather and everything!” she laughed.

After finishing treatment and being declared cancer-free, Jolene and Clint, along with her brother and sister-in-law, took a special Harley ride together. It was the first time Jolene had gotten to ride the new Harley she had purchased back when the cancer was first found. “We rode our Harleys up around the east end of the Boulder near Loa, with snow still on the ground,” said Jolene. “It was an incredible way to celebrate finishing a long and painful road of fighting cancer.”

Intermountain Healthcare offers many opportunities to women who cannot afford a mammogram. Interested women may call (435) 251-1777.

Some women will try and avoid a mammogram as long as they can. Intermountain Healthcare recommends women age 40 or older have a mammogram on an annual basis. Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread.