Regular screening is best: know the facts about getting screened for breast cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, in partnership with Cancer Care Ontario, is encouraging women between the ages of 50 and 74 to talk to a health care provider about being screened for breast cancer as part of their regular health routine.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, with one in eight women expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime. In Ontario, it is estimated that about 10,100 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 1,900 Ontario women will die from the disease in 2017.
“Breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates of all of the cancers in Ontario,” said Dr. Nicole Zavagnin, Cancer Care Ontario’s Regional Primary Care Lead in the Northwest region. “Studies show that regular mammograms, as part of an organized screening program, can help to lower the risk of dying from breast cancer in women ages 50 to 74. Screening mammography can find breast cancers when they are small, less likely to have spread, and more likely to be treated successfully.”
Unfortunately, the number of women returning for their regular mammograms within the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) has decreased from 83% in 2012 to 81% in 2013. Furthermore, retention was lowest among women ages 50 to 54 at only 77 percent, meaning that there are still many eligible women in this age group who could benefit from regular breast cancer screening. This pattern was also seen in Northwestern Ontario, with decreased participation and retention in breast cancer screening from 2012-2013 to 2014-2015.
“Mammography screening has a better chance of detecting a potential breast cancer if women follow the advised screening schedule, and follow-up regularly,” explained Dr. Zavagnin. “In Ontario, we recommend that women at average risk for breast cancer go for a screening mammogram starting at age 50, and then continue to go every two years until 74 years of age. With repeat mammograms changes in the breast over time can be measured and this can improve the ability to detect early cancers.”
The OBSP provides high-quality breast screening throughout Ontario to two groups of women:
- Most women ages 50 to 74 are screened every two years with mammography.
- Women ages 30 to 69 who are at high risk of getting breast cancer are screened once a year with a mammogram and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (or, if MRI is not medically appropriate, screening breast ultrasound).
It is important to talk with a health care provider if you think you might be at elevated risk of breast cancer due to your personal or family history.
In Northwestern Ontario, there are six OBSP sites where women have access to high-quality breast cancer screening, including:
- The Linda Buchan Centre at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre – Call (807) 684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031
- The Screen for Life Coach, which travels across Northwestern Ontario – Call (807) 684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031
- Thunder Bay Diagnostics – Call (807) 683-4411
- Lake of the Woods District Hospital – Call (807) 684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031
- Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre – Call (807) 684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031
- Riverside Health Care, Fort Frances – Call (807) 274-4808
Talk with your health care provider today about getting screened for breast cancer regularly with mammograms. To learn more visit http://www.tbrhsc.net/cancerscreening.