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Extension Education Highlight: Utah mammograms rates

A nurse and patient stand by a mammography machine
A nurse and patient stand by a mammography machine

Sariah Israelsen: You're listening to USU Extension Educational Highlight, I'm Sariah Israelsen and joining me today is Chloe Bhowmick, research fellow at Utah Women and Leadership Project. Welcome.

Chloe Bhowmick: Thank you for having me on.

Sariah Israelsen: So I just wanted to talk to you about the mammogram rates here in Utah. And I was reading a report done by the Utah Women in Leadership Project.

And I found that well, first breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US for women.

And second, Utah has one of the lowest mammogram rates of any state in the US, I think it's one of the lowest three, is that correct?

Chloe Bhowmick: Yes, that's correct.

So, is there specific reasons that we can pinpoint why this is why these rates are so low for women in Utah to get mammograms?

Chloe Bhowmick: Yes, absolutely. I think there are several, both personal and systemic reasons regarding these rates. I think on a personal level, obviously, insurance and financial concerns, which I do think the COVID 19 pandemic and people losing their jobs, and those sorts of issues, probably exasperated, that, in my opinion, as well as just the COVID-19 pandemic in general.

I'm actually surprised that it was not as impactful. But I think that we might see more of an accurate picture of what mammography and breast cancer rates look like, I think probably five to 10 years post pandemics, again, just my opinion.

And I think another concern, too, is that guidelines from health organizations in Utah do differ somewhat from national guidelines, particularly for women between the ages of 40 and 49. And that may have a role as well, where I think women within the age bracket may have some confusion in terms of what are their medical best practices.

Sariah Israelsen: So what are those differences? You mentioned that and I'm just curious, what are the differences between Utah and other states?

Chloe Bhowmick: While the other states typically recommend, I think, I think some of the other guidelines from what we were reading, were started at 50, whereas Utah recommends 40 to 49. So I think even then, just again, because it concerns that age bracket, that's where you might see some of those rates as well, for women who were younger within the demographics that we're talking about.

So I think because guidelines in terms of should women from the age get a mammogram or not, and it being a bit unclear or a bit, you know, contradictory, let's say, we surmised that that played a role as well.

Sariah Israelsen: So why are these rates that are low here in Utah, so concerning?

Chloe Bhowmick: It's definitely concerning for women, because breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women and mammograms are what, you know, prevent that in the sense of we can catch you know, breast cancer diagnosis earlier, and you can have more successful treatments.

So it is the best preventative measure for women and breast cancer. And just because of that, you know, having lower breast cancer sorry, mammography rates, equals lower catching rates or catching it when it's a bit more terminal or serious.

Sariah Israelsen: So what are some of the things that the medical institutions are trying to do to motivate women or help them understand the reasons why they should be getting these mammograms regularly?

Chloe Bhowmick: Some of the stuff that we've seen here are some of the stuff that we wrote within our snapshot is having more campaigns, my colleague found that for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, even just Google searches, right for breast cancer, and mammograms just skyrocketed compared to any other time of the year.

So some things that we think, you know, hopefully, are being done, but should be done is having public awareness campaigns all throughout the year, as well as having more support, you know, in terms of having those guidelines more clearer and more concise and having you know, either you talk conformed to national guidelines or national guidelines change, you know, conforming more to Utah, right, which may not be possible.

Another thing that we think as well is just for women on a more personal level, having employers who may be more understanding and more willing to give time off. So having more paid time off or just having the opportunity but within the workplace culture or just as opportunities for women, as well as childcare.

Childcare is a big barrier for a lot of women in Utah, and just having, you know, different systems in place where women have the opportunity to get a mammogram.

Sariah Israelsen: That was Chloe Bhowmick, research Fellow at Utah Women and Leadership Project. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Chloe Bhowmick: Again, thank you so much for having me on. It's been a pleasure.

Sariah Israelsen: And thank you all for listening and make sure that you join me again next week.