History, for Beth Dayley, indeed had a way of repeating itself. A decade ago, she developed the same breast cancer that killed her mother.
"Mother was not ignorant of the disease. Her older sister died of it," Dayley said.Now, just weeks before the 10th anniversary of her diagnosis, Dayley is telling women that breast cancer does not have to kill. Through screening, her illness was found before the lump was large enough to feel.
She was part of a panel in Salt Lake City Wednesday to kick off activities of the Utah Breast Cancer Task Force. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dayley is a project coordinator for the task force.
According to Dr. Charles R. Smart, chief of the Early Detection Branch of the National Cancer Institute, 150,000 women will develop breast cancer in 1990; 44,000 will die. "Thirteen thousand of them need not die if they simply follow guidelines," Smart said.
Those guidelines say that women over age 40 should have a clinical breast examination every year and a mammogram at least every two years. Those with a family history of breast cancer should start screening earlier. "It would reduce mortality by 36-40 percent," Smart said.
A model on display told a frightening story. Most women do not detect a lump in their breast until it is the size of a golf ball. A mammogram may locate pea-size lumps. The larger the cancer, the more likely it is to have spread throughout the body.
Mammograms have improved a lot since 1960, when they only detected cancer about 40 percent of the time. Ten years later, they detected 90 percent of the cancers. But because the mammogram misses at least 10 percent of breast cancer, Smart said it's essential to have both a mammogram and clinical screening.
The mammogram also uses much less radiation than in the past.
A study showed that more than half of women diagnosed with breast cancer found it themselves. Doctors first found suspicious lumps in 15 percent of the cases. And the mammogram detected the disease in 29 percent of the cases. But fewer than half of all women routinely follow breast-cancer screening guidelines.
Utah women are worse. Less than 20 percent of Utah women screen regularly, though they have little excuse not to have the test. Local health-care providers have kept the cost down. In New York, it costs about $300, but in Utah it's about $60.
Dr. Irene Tocino, LDS Hospital Radiology and task force chairwoman, said more than 800 Utah women are diagnosed every year. Barriers to detection include a lack of information and a lack of doctors who routinely order the test. "We've taken care of the money barrier, but we still haven't seen enough referrals. If a doctor doesn't mention it, a woman should."
"Today, there's hope that was not available in Mom's day," Dayley said. "I have seen the heartbreak people go through when it's detected late. I still have not seen a lot of women getting mammograms. The technology is there, the information is there. But not enough women are taking advantage of the technology."