LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) — Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in Utah, and yet the beehive state is in the lowest three states for mammograms.

Mammograms have been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality and increase the chance of early detection and treatment. However, according to the latest data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Utah is one of the lowest breast cancer screening states.

Data from the study finds that the average screening rate for Utah was 62.7%. That is 6.3% lower than the U.S. women’s average of 69%.

Utah State University and the Utah Women and Leadership Project reported that there are several reasons Utah women might not get screenings as much as the national average.

This included time constraints, family size, education, level of health literacy, and lack of a primary care provider, the 2017 report states. In 2023, UWLP added that additional factors may also affect this such as insurance coverage, financial concerns, mammography guidelines, and the impacts of COVID.

“We hope that reviewing past information will help us as we move forward,” UWLP founding director Susan Madsen said. “Understanding these factors coupled with education can help Utah women receive this valuable test at higher rates.”

According to Madsen, while cost and access to health insurance may influence whether individuals received healthcare, a 2019 study found that there are barriers even when women have health insurance.

“Women with higher income levels were more likely to list forgetting to schedule an appointment or lack of time as barriers, as opposed to women with lower income, who cited financial difficulty and a lack of screening recommendation from a physician as more common barriers,” said Chloe Bhowmick, clinical psychologist, UWLP research fellow, and lead report author.

Other factors that can deter mammograms include:

  • Lack of transportation,
  • Mixed messages about the frequency of mammograms,
  • Disruption to routine care due to COVID-19,
  • Cultural norms,
  • Prioritizing work and family obligations,
  • Lack of childcare for the appointment,
  • Lack of knowledge about mammography,
  • Lack of trust in the health care system,
  • The concern of pain during the screening,
  • Fear of receiving a diagnosis.

“There are several steps that state and local systems can take to foster increased mammography rates,” said Sadie Wilde, USU Extension assistant professor, UWLP research associate, and report author. “One step is to have consistent guidelines and goals so women clearly understand how often they should have a mammogram. Also, Utah healthcare and insurance systems can help increase screening rates by building patient advisories into electronic record systems. In addition, employers can implement wellness programs and worktime flexibility that encourage employees to complete screenings according to recommended age and frequency guidelines.”

Madsen said health and government organizations should also continue supporting public awareness campaigns in Utah. A recent study showed a significant increase of 180.1% in the volume of related internet searches surrounding Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

To see the full report with references, click here. For further information on UWLP programs and projects, visit utwomen.org.