October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn't been impacted by this dreadful disease.

Marianne Hamilton, St. George resident and former Miss Sr. Universe, is a breast cancer survivor and she's pledged to help anyone who has apprehension about getting screened for breast cancer to help all she can.

"If you need someone to go with you, to be there for you, I'll do it," she said on the Andy Griffin Show on Tuesday.

Hamilton said breast cancer, the second-leading cause of death among women in the United States, is indiscriminate. You could be doing everything right in your life, and it can still get you.

Hamilton said catching it early, in Stage 1, is the key.

"You've got to take care of the girls," she said.

Nationally, 1 in 8 women will get diagnosed with breast cancer at least once in their lifetime. That's more than 15 million diagnoses. In 2020, approximately 2.3 million new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed worldwide.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to ensure that everyone has access to valuable resources and information:

  • Early Detection: According to the American Cancer Society, when breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage the five-year relative survival rate is 99%. Early detection includes doing monthly breast self-exams, and scheduling regular clinical breast exams and mammograms.
  • Support Groups: Join local or online support groups to connect with others who have been impacted by breast cancer. Find more information here.
  • Donations: Consider making a donation to organizations dedicated to breast cancer research and support. Here are a few of our favorites:

Intermountain Health Expanding Hours and Access to Make It Easier and More Convenient for Utah Women to Get Screened for Breast Cancer

As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Intermountain Health is working to make it more convenient for women in Utah to undergo their annual mammogram screening.

To enhance access for women, Intermountain Health’s Breast Care Center at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray is opening for mammogram screenings every Saturday in October.

The Saturday appointment option is aimed at helping women who are busy during the week, giving them more options, time, and flexibility to schedule and receive this important – and potentially life-saving – screening.

“We understand women in our community get busy taking care of day-to-day life and we don’t want them to go without this vital screening,” said Eugene Kim, MD, medical director of the Intermountain Health Breast Care Center. “We want women to be healthy so they can be there for the people they care about and those who rely on them.”

Survival rates have increased dramatically in recent decades thanks to increase in annual mammography screenings, however, Utah continues to rank near the bottom in the nation for the number of women who get their annual screening.

Intermountain Health is also expanding the service of FAST MRI breast screening to more hospitals throughout Utah. The advanced screening is for women considered to be at higher risk for developing breast cancer and can be a vital tool for early detection.

This year, the service has expanded from Intermountain Medical Center to include Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, American Fork Hospital, and Park City Hospital. FAST MRI is scheduled to be available at Logan Regional Hospital by the end of this year.

To determine their risk, patients take a survey before their mammogram to see if they’re at higher risk, based on several factors including family medical history, density of breast tissue, and genealogy.

Women who score a 20 or higher on their assessment are considered to be at high risk for developing breast cancer. It also makes them eligible for a FAST MRI breast scan, which is more sensitive and better at detecting issues in the breast tissue.

Linda Campbell is the process control coordinator for MRI services at Intermountain Health and helped develop the protocols for FAST MRI screenings. During her last mammogram appointment, she tested over the threshold because a close family member was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her decision to get the additional screening with a FAST MRI made all the difference in catching her cancer early because it wasn’t yet detectable on her mammogram.

“I had just barely tested over and wasn’t sure if I needed the FAST MRI but decided to do it and I’m glad I did,” said Campbell. “Had the small tumor removed and had 15 treatments of radiation but never needed chemo because we caught it early.”

FAST MRI only takes 10 minutes and costs considerably less than a traditional MRI screening. Women considered to be high risk for breast cancer may have the MRI covered by certain insurance plans.

Doctors say breast MRI scans won’t replace the need for an annual mammogram because those screenings can still detect some cancers better.

To schedule a screening, call 801-507-7840, or visit intermountainhealthcare.org/mammogram

To see some questions from the Intermountain questionnaire, click here.

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