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Mammography among Utah women ranks below the national average

Young woman is having mammography examination at the hospital or private clinic with a professional female doctor.
Povozniuk/Maksym Povozniuk - stock.adobe.c
Young woman is having mammography examination at the hospital or private clinic with a professional female doctor.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Utah women.

According to the Utah Women and Leadership Project at Utah State University, Utah is among the three lowest-ranked states in the country for mammography screening rates in women aged 40 or older. According to the group, The Utah Department of Health and Human Services was unable to meet its goal of 76% of Utah women, aged 40 years and older, to be screened for breast cancer in 2020.

Chloe Bhowmick, clinical psychologist and research fellow for the Utah Women and Leadership Project, said a lot of the challenges inhibiting mammography rates are "financial and systemic."

"Having lack of insurance, not having insurance coverage through their job, not being able to get time off," Bhowmick outlined. "Those are all, I think, pretty important factors that we found or at least we surmised in being pretty significant," said Bhowmick.

Bhowmick noted other factors which have negatively affected screening rates include lack of affordable child care, discrepancies between mammography guidelines as well as varying levels of health literacy. Only 62.7% of Utah women aged 40 years and older reported having a mammogram in the last two years. The national average for U.S. women in the same group was 69%.

Bhowmick emphasized it is also important to not forget because of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical centers are still catching up on the backlog of mammography appointments, which can further delay preventive services.

Bhowmick added while the Beehive State is currently sitting 6.3% below the national average, local and state systems can take steps to increase screening rates, including having insurance systems building patient advisories into electronic record systems, tracking how often providers remind individuals of preventive care and employers implementing initiatives such as wellness programs and policies.

"I think having systems that support women, women will be able to both realize that this should be a priority with certain age groups, but also they have the freedom to go," Bhowmick explained.

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services has a goal of 81% of age-eligible Utah women receiving a mammogram by 2030. Bhowmick stressed education and advocacy from community groups can help the state reach its goal.