Wellness Wednesday: increasing the rate of mammogram screenings in Utah

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Intermountain Healthcare is making a new push to increase mammogram screenings across the state.

Here are several ways Intermountain is working to increase screenings.

Several screening clinics are expanding hours by opening on Saturdays to enhance access.

Intermountain is also launching a new, advanced, mobile mammogram unit, which will add 20,000 screening appointments a year.

Additionally, Intermountain is partnering with local businesses to do on-site mammography screening to increase convenience and increase screening rates.

Women in the United States currently have a 1-in-8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in U.S. women. However, Utah’s rate of women who undergo mammogram screening annually is one of the lowest in the nation.

Brett Parkinson, M.D., medical director of Intermountain’s Breast Care Centerat Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, said an annual mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer early. One barrier is that it’s not always convenient for women to take time during the week to have the imaging done, so they often put it off.

“We want to make mammograms so convenient that there’s no excuse to not make that appointment,” said Dr. Parkinson. “Our mobile mammogram unit will ensure we bring that convenience to where our patients live, work, and receive their primary care.”

Pat Drehobl of Taylorsville is one of the first patients who experienced this convenience and improved access. She noticed the mobile mammogram unit parked at the clinic near her home and decided to make an appointment.

Drehobl’s doctor was just across town but she had avoided getting a mammogram after a painful breast reduction surgery seven years earlier.

“I’ve just been hesitant since my surgery, but once I saw the mobile mammogram unit, I finally got up the courage to get screened,” said Drehobl. “It made me feel better being the only patient there and the staff made me feel really comfortable.”

A few days after her mammogram, Drehoble was relieved to hear there were no signs of cancer.

Intermountain also plans to take the state-of-the-art mobile mammogram unit with 3-D mammography technology directly to local businesses.

For many women, taking an hour out of a workday for a screening appointment isn’t always easy, but the convenience of the mobile unit will make it easier for women to have access to this potentially lifesaving service.

The mobile mammogram unit can also be brought to any clinic or business around the state.

Dr. Brad Prestwich, M.D., a family physician at the Intermountain Draper Clinic, says the goal is to improve screening rates in Utah because the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better chance we have of curing it.

“The new mobile mammogram unit will help make this important screening more convenient by bringing the equipment to the clinic, instead of requiring a patient to travel to an off-site imaging center,” said Dr. Prestwitch. “Faster, easier, more convenient cancer screening is an all-around win and I’m excited to have this resource brought closer for my patients.”

Caregivers are already screening women in the mobile mammogram unit at the Intermountain Taylorsville Clinic. The official rollout was Sept. 20 and soon it will make its way across the state to other Intermountain clinics. This will add to the smaller mobile mammogram unit currently working out of the Garfield Memorial Clinic in Panguitch.

In urban areas, the opening of imaging centers on Saturdays is already making an impact. Since August, the Breast Care Center at Intermountain Medical Center has offered screenings on Saturdays, and Dr. Parkinson said nearly every appointment quickly fills up. Intermountain is now looking to expand hours at more screening centers.

According to Intermountain Healthcare guidelines, women at an average risk for breast cancer should begin their annual screening mammography at the age of 40 and should continue screening for as long as they’re healthy.

To request a mobile mammogram or to schedule the unit to come to your business, go to http://www.intermountainhealthcare.org/mobilemammo or call 1-833-MAMMOGO (1-833-626-6646).

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