When volunteer Norma O. Nichols says she's going door to door for the American Cancer Society, she doesn't use the phrase lightly.

"I have promised the Cancer Society I will contact every home," says Nichols, the society's residential chairwomanfor Copperton, at the base of Bingham Canyon.For the past 24 years, Nichols and her block captains have knocked on every door in the little town in an effort to raise funds and spread information about cancer detection. If no one is home, Nichols or her colleagues come back again. And again.

"We have very, very few non-contributors," she says, even though the old mining community has hardly been prosperous lately.

The Copperton volunteers are just a few of Utah's nearly 30,000 volunteers who will be knocking on doors for the American Cancer Society from April 23 through 30. The emphasis of the 1988 Crusade is Breast Cancer Detection Awareness.

The Cancer Society estimates that 135,000 women, including 500 Utahns, will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. About 42,000 women will likely die of the disease in 1988.

Last year, Utah raised $337,776 for cancer research. This year, the volunteers, under the direction of state residential chairman Sharon Shore, hope to raise $400,000.

Every woman should consider herself at risk for breast cancer, notes the Cancer Society. It is estimated that one in every 10 women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life.

Women at higher risk of getting the disease are those with mothers or sisters who have had breast cancer, those with high-fat diets, first full-term pregnancy after the age of 30, and a long menstrual history.

But even those women without these factors should undergo early detection tests, says the Cancer Society, "since recent evidence indicates that the risk factors apply only to a small percentage of breast cancer cases."

The Society recommends the following steps for early detection of breast cancer:

-Breast self-examination: women 20 and over should examine their breasts every month, noting any changes in appearance or feeling, including any lumps or thickening.

-Professional breast examination: women 20 to 40 should have their physician examine their breasts every three years. Women 40 and over should have an annual examination.

-Mammography: women 35 to 39 should have a baseline mammogram for future comparisons. Women 40 to 49 should have a mammogram every year or two, depending on their doctor's advice. Women 50 and over should have the test yearly.

Although mammograms often detect cancers so small they can't be felt by either the woman or her doctor, only about 19 percent of American women over 50, the age group at the highest risk, have a yearly mammogram, according to a 1986 Gallup survey.

About 14,000 volunteers will be going door to door in the Salt Lake valley in the next two weeks, taking with them packets of information packed by Stephanie Leone and the residents of Friendship Manor.

In addition to Norma Nichols, local residential chairwomen include Eleene Thomas, Elaine Maxfield, Ardith Burton, Mildred Sorensen, Merodean Anderson, Laura Voorhes, K.C. Walker, Dolores Auger, Dee Maynard and Pam Pace. General chairmen are Maria Seljaas, Nancy Coke, Winnie DeMann and Margaret Chamberlin.

Davis County residential chairwomen are Ruth Tangren, Katheryn Richardson, Tammy Johnson, Beverlee Garlock, Julie Jonston and Lisa Cena.