Wednesday May 4th, 2016 is Mammothon! Mammothon is a one-day breast cancer screening event that encourages Ontario women between 50 and 74 years, who are overdue or who have never had a mammogram to take action, make the time, and get screened. This year’s Mammothon event has 54 Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) sites participating across the province with the combined goal to screen 1,000 women in just one day.
Ontario cancer screening guidelines recommend that women between the ages of 50 to 74 should get screened for breast cancer with a mammogram every 2 years. In Canada, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, with 1 in 9 women expected to be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. Although it takes only a few minutes to be screened, many women can sometimes feel hesitant to book their mammogram.
Women in Ontario, between the ages 50 to 54, have the largest number of screen-eligible women who have not booked their mammogram appointments. While there is controversy when it comes to mammograms, Ashley Buitenhuis, a registered Mammography Technologist (MRT) at Thunder Bay Diagnostics, confirms that “mammography is still the gold standard when it comes to breast screening.”
A mammogram is a special x-ray machine that takes a picture of the breast and detects any changes that have occurred, even those too small for the average person to feel or see. A mammogram involves a plastic plate that is slowly pressed down to flatten the breast and hold it in place for a few seconds. Thunder Bay Diagnostics, an affiliate site of the OBSP, has been offering mammograms for more than 20 years and now uses digital mammography. “With digital imaging, radiologists are capable of manipulating the image that is taken, which allows them to view abnormalities with more ease. This especially applies to women with dense breast tissue,” explains Buitenhuis.
As of May 2015, the OBSP has provided more than 6.3 million mammograms and has detected more than 33,000 breast cancers, the majority in early stages. The concern for some women lies in the amount of radiation patients could be exposed to. “Mammograms are indeed safe. There is radiation exposure involved just as with any x-ray; however it is a very low radiation dose to the patient. On average, a person is exposed to 3 millisevets (mSv) of background radiation per year (radon, cosmic rays, etc.). With a routine mammogram, involving 2 images per breast, the average patient receives 0.4 mSv of radiation. The benefit of the exam outweighs the risk in most instances,” adds Buitenhuis.
Women have an excellent opportunity to participate in Mammothon and complete their breast cancer screening in Northwestern Ontario on May 4th. All OBSP sites in Kenora, Fort Frances, and Thunder Bay are participating and most of the sites are offering walk-in screening as well. As an added bonus, women who complete a mammogram on May 4th will receive a small gift bag and have their name entered into a draw for a spa package. Thunder Bay Diagnostics will be screening women between 9 am – 5 pm with both walk-in and pre-booked appointments. Call (807) 683-4411 to book your appointment. For more information on participating sites and their walk-in times, visit www.mammothon.ca.