Ogden Breast Cancer Survivor Regrets Putting Off Mammogram For 17 Years

Oct 24, 2019, 5:46 PM | Updated: 8:33 pm

OGDEN, Utah — Utah consistently ranks in the bottom five states for breast cancer screening rates each year. Between juggling kids, work schedules and volunteering in the community, it’s not always easy to make time for yourself — but one Utah woman wishes she didn’t put it off.

Even though the weather is changing, Tammy Spackman loves to spend time caring for her garden.

“Because I never used to have time to do it,” she said. “It’s very calming, very peaceful.”

But gardening wasn’t the only thing Spackman didn’t have time for.

Between working full-time and caring for her family, she always put her needs last on the list.

A few years ago, Spackman went to a doctor’s appointment with her primary care physician who was conducting a routine assessment and asked her when she had her last mammogram.

“And I said, I’ve never had one,” Spackman admitted.

“I know, I know, I know — 57 years old, never had a mammogram,” she said. “You know, time goes by, you’re too busy.’

Since Spackman didn’t have any risk factors, she thought she was in the clear.

“Nobody in my family has breast cancer. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink,” she said.

She also admitted she was scared to be screened.

“That it was going to hurt. I was afraid that they were going to find something,” she said.

Her doctor immediately made her a screening appointment. “This primary care physician saved my life. She really did,” Spackman said.

Spackman was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, but fortunately, her doctor caught it early enough.

Tammy Spackman had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after her diagnosis with stage two breast cancer. (Courtesy Tammy Spackman)

“I didn’t have to have radiation. I didn’t have to have chemo,” she described, but she did have a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She couldn’t lift her arm for about six months, and the entire surgical process spanned across two years.

Dr. Brett Parkinson, director of Intermountain Medical Center’s Breast Cancer Center, said the cure rate is high if cancer is found early on.

“If we could find it in stage zero or stage one, most of those women can be cured,” he said.

Parkinson said women should start annual screening at age 40. He said they use the previous year’s imaging to compare current results.

“It’s important you do it year after year because changes can come up within a year,” Parkinson said.

He tells people to make it a priority, even though Utah women are often pulled in many directions.

“Many of those moms are not only taking care of children, (and) working outside the home, they’re also taking care of parents and they’re involved in the community,” he said.

Parkinson said only 65% of eligible Utah women have had a mammogram in the last two years.

“A lot of women out there who don’t think there are risks, however, one-in-eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime,” Parkinson said.

For women who are at a higher risk of having breast cancer, Parkinson encourages them to be screened with MRI before they turn 40.

High-risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Having a family history of breast cancer
  • Carrying the breast cancer gene (BRCA-1 or BRCA-2)
  • Early menarche
  • Late menopause
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol intake

Parkinson reminded patients who have a sister or mother who has had breast cancer to start screening about 10 years before that woman was diagnosed.

“If the mom had breast cancer at 47, the woman should start screening at about age 37,” he said.

He also encouraged women who are afraid of being in pain during a mammogram to not let that concern stand in the way of their health.

“A mammogram shouldn’t actually hurt, but it will be uncomfortable,” he said. However, he encourages patients to communicate with the technologist to make the experience as comfortable as possible.

“There’s no excuse for not being screened early. We’re doing a much better job now than we were 30 years ago,” Parkinson said. He said 3D mammography helps doctors be more accurate in their screening today.

Dr. Brett Parkinson said 3D mammography screening has helped improve the accuracy of a breast cancer diagnosis.

“The good news is that most women will not die of their breast cancer if they’re diagnosed, he said. “And if they’re diagnosed in the earliest stage when the cancer is still within the duct and hasn’t broken out of what we call the basement membrane, then the cure rate approaches 100%.”

Intermountain Healthcare offers “after-hours” screening and mobile mammography clinics parked across the state to make it easier for women who work to also be screened.

Intermountain Healthcare offers mobile mammography for people who can’t get away from work to visit a hospital or clinic to get their screening done.

“Not all women can take time off during the day to come to a bricks and mortar screening facility,” Parkinson said. “If a company wants to arrange for its female employees to have a mammogram they can call us and we will show up on site and offer mammography.”

Spackman said she is so thankful she got screened when she did. She wishes she had made it a priority 17 years earlier.

“You always find time to do your nails or your hair,” Spackman said. “But you know, you don’t find time for the 10 minutes to do the mammogram.”

For busy moms who think they don’t have time for one more appointment, Spackman asked, “Who’s going to take care of your babies if you’re no longer here?”

Tammy Spackman with her husband and son. (Courtesy Tammy Spackman)

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

Ayanna Likens

New orthopedic urgent care offers quicker, more affordable care

A first of its kind orthopedic urgent care opened in St. George, providing faster and cheaper services than going to the emergency room.
6 days ago
Joan DuQuette and Amanda DuQuette-Roberts...
Ayanna Likens

South Jordan family is thankful for organ donation this Thanksgiving

A local family said they have a lot to be thankful for this year after their family member received a lifesaving kidney transplant, but this transplant actually saved more than just one life.
14 days ago
Thanksgiving feast...
Ayanna Likens

Taking food allergies into account this holiday season

As Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations bring people around the table, Intermountain Healthcare dietitians say it's crucial to take food allergies into consideration when planning the big meal.
19 days ago
aortic aneurysm repair...
Ayanna Likens

‘It was a real miracle for us’ New technology at Intermountain Healthcare saves man’s life

Intermountain Healthcare recently became the first in Utah to perform a new lifesaving and less invasive heart procedure. 
26 days ago
Ayanna Likens

Utah mom, doctor shed light on high-risk pregnancy diagnosis

One Salt Lake mom, who was diagnosed with a rare, high-risk pregnancy diagnosis called placenta accreta, speaks about her experience. A doctor from Intermountain Healthcare also weighs in.
1 month ago
Ayanna Likens

Tips to keep your child safe this Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, which means streets will soon be filled with trick-or-treaters whose focus on candy may distract them from watching cars. Here are some tips to keep them safe.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Ogden Breast Cancer Survivor Regrets Putting Off Mammogram For 17 Years