Not enough women are taking action against breast cancer.
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When Gail Brescia heard the statistic, she was taken aback; Cancer Care Ontario notes that women aged 50 to 54 years have the highest number of screen-eligible women who have not been screened for breast cancer. “It surprises me, given the knowledge we have about health and how involved we are in our care,” said Brescia, 53, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of this year.
Luckily, Brescia’s cancer was detected early through regular mammography, which is one of the reasons why she is an advocate for cancer screening. “I can’t say that [getting screened for breast cancer] isn’t scary – it is. It’s the fear of the unknown. But through a mammogram, you’ll discover the known,” she encourages. “I found my breast cancer through a routine mammogram. The diagnosis totally shocked me. But, it’s highly likely that this is going to happen to someone you know, so we need to figure out how we can stop it.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Canadian women. 1 in 9 women are expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime. The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) recommends that women aged 50 to 74 years have a breast screening mammogram every two years. However, only 57.9 percent of screen-eligible women in Northwestern Ontario have had a mammogram in the previous 2 years. That number needs to increase to help save more lives.
A mammogram is done with a special X-ray machine that takes a picture of the breast to detect any abnormalities. Dr. Don Henderson, long-time Reading Radiologist for the OBSP, explains what he is looking for when he reads mammogram images, “We are looking for potential tumours, which may be seen as masses or abnormal calcifications on the mammogram. Anytime we see a possible abnormality we refer the client for further imaging to confirm or exclude the presence of cancer. Approximately 10 percent of all mammograms will require additional follow-up, and 85 percent of these will turn out to be normal or benign.”
Women can help to prevent cancer from occurring by leading a healthy lifestyle. This includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day and not smoking. It is also helpful to be aware of your risk for developing breast cancer. Recently, Cancer Care Ontario released an online risk assessment tool called MyCancerIQ. Using this tool, men and women can help to determine their risk for developing breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancers. The tool can be found at www.mycanceriq.ca.
For more information about breast cancer screening visit www.tbrhsc.net/cancerscreening.
For more information, please contact:
Health Promotion & Communications Planner,
Prevention & Screening Services
Tel: (807) 684-6716