WHAM! Just like that, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Cervical Cancer Awareness Week are now encompassed in Women’s Health Awareness Month, known as WHAM.
Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, Regional Primary Care Lead for Prevention and Screening Services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, encourages all eligible women to ‘take charge’ and be screened for breast and cervical cancer.
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Ontario women, which is why completing breast screening is so important,” stated Dr. Zavagnin. “It is estimated that about 11,762 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. Regular screening can help to improve health outcomes, because screening mammography can find breast cancers when they are small, less likely to have spread and more likely to be treated successfully.” A mammogram is the gold standard screening tool for breast cancer screening, which involves taking an X-ray of the breasts.
Although cervical cancer is not as prominent in Ontario as breast cancer, Dr. Zavagnin said over 40% of women in Northwestern Ontario are still not up-to-date when completing Pap tests. “A Pap test looks for abnormal cell changes on the cervix which could lead to the development of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular screening, which makes completing Pap tests that much more important,” explained Dr. Zavagnin.
The theme for WHAM this year is simple. Women are encouraged to ‘take charge’ of their health and be screened for cancer. “The great thing about the organized cancer screening programs is that you can refer yourself, which means you do not need to rely on anyone but yourself to make an appointment to have your mammogram,” said Dr. Zavagnin.
Women aged 50-74, with no family history of breast cancer, should complete a mammogram every two years, and women who are or have been sexually active should have a Pap test every three years starting at age 21. Dr. Zavagnin suggests talking with your health care provider about whether cancer screening is an option for you.
For more information on cancer screening, visit www.tbrhsc.net/screening, or to make an appointment, call (807) 684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031.