Utah second-worst state for mammogram screenings, initiative hopes to change that

Posted at 10:18 PM, Sep 25, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has the second worst record in the country for mammogram screenings, with only about 64 percent of insured women over the age of 40 getting them annually.

According to Dr. Brett Parkinson, who serves as Director of Breast Imaging at Intermountain Medical Center, many more women are at risk of getting breast cancer than the public realizes.

"The truth is about 75 percent of our breast cancer cases here occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer and no risk factors beyond just being female," Parkinson said.

Fear and a clean medical history are the main reasons why Parkinson believes women in Utah are not having the exams.

It's why he helped launch an awareness campaign at IMC, called A Thousand Points of Pink. Through outreach events in October, organizers hope to get 1,000 women to have a mammogram by the end of the year.

"I was diagnosed at 46, a very early diagnosis, and it had already spread to my lymph nodes," said Angela Dumkey, who battled breast cancer nearly a decade ago.

Now, a survivor, she's living with new purpose.

"I learned how important now is," Dumkey said. "And how important it is to spread that word to other women."

One year ago, Utah Highway Patrol Officer Bonnie Kunz couldn't wear her uniform, a look breast cancer had completely stripped away from her.

"There was a point where I was taking chemo treatments where I told my husband, I was like, 'Honey, I don't think I can do this. This is really hard,'" explained Kunz. "And he said, 'Honey, you're going to do it. You will do this.' And I said, 'You're right. I will. I will. I promise.'"

Thursday evening, she stood alongside a crowd of other survivors to talk not about the illness that almost killed her, but the exam that saved her life.

"If you have a feeling about yourself that you should go get something checked, go do it," Kunz said. "I was 38. I barely just turned 40. Who's to say I'd still be here alive?"

FOX 13 News is a sponsor of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk scheduled for Saturday, October 11 at Liberty Park. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the walk is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.