SALT LAKE CITY — Utah ranks last in the nation for the number of women over 40 years old receiving annual mammograms, and with all the advances in treatment and early detection, that is a ranking officials are hoping to change.

"There is science behind annual exams," said Dr. Brett Parkinson, imaging director at Intermountain Medical Center's Janice Beesley Hartvigsen Breast Care Center. He said new modalities of screening have helped to save lives from breast cancer.

Since screening took center stage in breast cancer diagnosis in 1990, the breast cancer death rate has decreased nearly 30 percent, Parkinson said, adding that early screening and detection leads to other tests that help to stop cancer in its tracks and save more women from its grasp.

To kick off October as National Breast Cancer Awareness month, Intermountain Healthcare is inviting survivors and their families to a breakfast event Friday, to hear Deseret Book Company CEO and author Sheri Dew tell her own story of survival.

Best known as an inspirational writer, Dew was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly six years ago. She will share her story about overcoming the disease and how it affected her family, including her sister and mother, who both also battled breast cancer.

"This is about the survivors," Parkinson said. "We want to honor them, but it is also for all women because all women are at risk of breast cancer. One in eight women will eventually develop breast cancer."

Parkinson will discuss new modalities used in breast cancer detection and the growing importance of early detection and screening mammography.

"Women are busy taking care of their families, they have large families and lots of siblings and are often taking care of their parents as well," he said. "They tend to put themselves last.

"You cannot be a good caretaker and provider to your family if you're not healthy."

The American Cancer Society reports that nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, including about 1,000 women in Utah.

Millions of women have beat the disease due to various and aggressive cancer treatment efforts, but mostly because of early detection, Parkinson said. Their lives, along with those who have died from breast cancer, will be celebrated at Friday's event.

Breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m., at IMC's Breast Cancer Center, located at 5121 Cottonwood Street, in Murray. To reserve a seat for the event, call 801-507-3800.

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