In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Blue Rock Medical hosted a “Don’t Ghost The Girls 5k” on Oct. 14 to raise funds for breast cancer research and to increase breast cancer awareness.
Throughout the month, Provo has hosted a variety of activities and events to help bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the local community. The Utah County Health Department hosted a health fair and clinic on Oct. 11 and 12, where they offered a variety of free services, information and prizes.
Blue Rock Medical’s “Don’t Ghost the Girls” 5k run or walk event was another opportunity for Provo community members to join together and demonstrate support for breast cancer awareness.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation states breast cancer is “a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.” According to the May “Mammography Among Utah Women: A 2023 Update” from the Utah Women & Leadership Project, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in the state of Utah. Utah is also among the three lowest states for breast cancer screening among women 40 and older — 6.3% below the national average.
Dr. Andrew Gibby, an interventional radiologist at Blue Rock Medical in Provo, explained the 5k event was for raising awareness of breast cancer among Utah women, a cause close to his heart.
“In my family, we have a lot of cancer-related, some genetic problems. My grandmother died of breast cancer, and multiple people in my family died from similar problems. So, we take this to heart and want to raise awareness and ensure that people are screened,” Dr. Gibby said.
Many of the 5k participants, such as Anna Delange and Haley Beaman, also had a personal connection to cancer. Both Delange and Beaman have family members who have had breast and brain cancer.
“My grandma had breast cancer, but she was able to recover. So it’s always a good reason to be here,” Delange said.
Beaman expressed how cancer can be a “big scary word,” but when she hears of opportunities to raise awareness for it, she tries to support the cause.
Dr. Gibby emphasized although some Utahns believe they are exempt from cancer if they are healthy, this type of cancer could happen to anybody despite taking all the precautions.
“It seems like people here in Utah sometimes get the idea that since they’re very healthy, they won’t get it. But they forget these things don’t necessarily come when you’re unhealthy. It can happen to anybody, and you need to do the screening because the cancer does not really show symptoms,” Dr. Gibby said.
Mammograms or breast screenings are highly recommended, along with living a healthy lifestyle, to help ensure safety and stay aware of any possibilities of cancer.
It is recommended by the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mayo Clinic that women begin getting mammograms at 40 years old. People are encouraged to talk to doctors or healthcare providers to determine when they should start and how frequently they should get a mammogram.
The low rates of Utah women receiving mammograms are particularly concerning to Dr. Gibby. The UWLP’s mammography report identified several reasons why Utah women may not be receiving mammograms.
“Other factors to consider include lack of transportation and geographic accessibility, cultural norms, prioritizing work and family obligations, lack of childcare for the appointment, lack of knowledge about the mammography, lack of trust in the health care system, the concern of pain during the screening and fear of receiving a diagnosis,” the report states.
Although Dr. Gibby understands how mammograms can be uncomfortable, he still highly encourages every woman to take the time to get screened.
“Your lifetime risk is still high enough that you need to get screened no matter who you are. Some people may need additional screening because they are at higher risk, and you won’t know until you get that screening,” Dr. Gibby said.
According to Dr. Gibby, we know from years of data that mammograms are the only type of medical screening to show a mortality difference that actually saves lives.
The Blue Rock Medical Group has seen a significant influx of people getting screened around the month of October and attributes the increase to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“We see a huge uptake in the number of mammograms and things we do around this time of year. I think a lot of it has to do with the marketing efforts and general promotion of breast cancer awareness,” Dr. Gibby said.
While he wishes everyone had the same amount of energy throughout the rest of the year, Dr. Gibby is appreciative of everyone helping to raise awareness this October.
“I appreciate that everyone in the country puts the effort in and raises awareness for it because it is very important,” he said.
The Utah County Health Department Wellness Clinic in Provo offers free mammogram services to women ages 40-74 and younger women who qualify for it, depending on their symptoms and income guidelines. Free screenings may include a mammogram, clinical breast exam, pap test, blood pressure test, cholesterol exam and blood sugar test.
Throughout the rest of the month, Provo will be hosting different events to help promote and raise awareness. BYU’s “Cougs vs Cancer” will have a Pickleball Tournament on Oct. 21. More information can be found on the group’s Instagram account.
Salt Lake City is also having a walk for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Oct. 28.