“It’s been in the news that Utah is at or near the bottom for compliance in getting regular mammograms,” said radiologist, Dr. Jose Perez-Tamayo, director of Women’s Imaging Services at Lakeview Hospital and Ogden Regional Medical Center. “Only 50 percent of Utah women are getting tested. Why is this occurring?”
Perez-Tamayo said women in Utah generally do have a slightly lower risk largely because of religious factors and lifestyle. But the flip side to that is, more women in Utah die of breast cancer when they do get it.
“Because of the strong religious and lifestyle factors, many women think if they don’t drink or smoke they won’t get breast cancer,” he said. “That is wrong. They also tend to take care of everybody else before themselves. But that is sad, because they die and can’t take care of anybody.”
According to Perez-Tamayo, survival rates decrease significantly when cancer is detected at a much later stage.
“If the cancer is under 1 percent centimeter in size there is a 98 percent survival rate,” he said. “That rate goes down dramatically with a larger mass.”
Perez-Tamayo said the facilities at Lakeview are unrivaled in Utah.
“We use the lowest radiation in the country,” he said. “We also have the latest technology. Every patient diagnosed will talk to a radiologist who will explain what is happening and put her mind at ease.”
He said the team at Lakeview works as a unit to give the best care.
“Our team consists of radiologists, surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists,” Perez-Tamayo said. “No one has to go to Salt Lake City to get the absolute best breast care. Any patient with concerns will be seen immediately and meet with the radiologist to develop a strong relationship.”
There has been some controversy over when and how often a woman should receive a mammogram, but Perez-Tamayo said all women should have an annual test after the age of 40.
“There should be regular self exams starting at age 35 and also a yearly clinical exam by their physician,” he recommended. “Women who have a strong family history may need more screenings.”
However, he said 90 percent of women who get breast cancer have no family history. But the hospital provides special risk assessment services too.
“I want to give women hope,” he said. “Breast cancer is no longer a fatal disease. If caught early, and with surgery and radiation it is survivable.
“It’s (a mammogram) not that painful anymore,” he continued. “At Lakeview we use the mammo pad which makes it more comfortable. The idea of a torture device is a thing of the past. It’s never fun, but it is a way to save your life.”
Dr. Perez-Tamayo will be speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at Lakeview Hospital about breast cancer awareness and prevention.