Breast cancer screening is the regular examination of a woman's breasts to find breast cancer early.
Regular breast cancer screening can find cancer when it is small, which means:
- There is a better chance of treating the cancer successfully.
- It is less likely to spread.
- There may be more treatment options.
Breast cancer screening saves lives
Likely because of screening mammography and better cancer treatments, breast cancer mortality in the Ontario population declined by roughly 37 percent for women aged 50 to 74 and by 31.5 percent for women of all ages between 1990 and 2009.
Mammograms best for most women
Mammography (breast X-ray) remains the best screening test for most women. Ontario women can receive a screening mammogram in one of two ways:
In 2011–2012, 60% of women in Ontario aged 50 to 74 were screened for breast cancer with mammography through OBSP or other screening clinics. This means there are still many women who would benefit from regular breast cancer screening.
Women at high risk
The OBSP High Risk Screening Centres facilitate referrals for genetic assessment for women who may be at high risk for breast cancer (if appropriate; see OBSP Screening for Women at High Risk ). For women who have been confirmed to be at high risk for breast cancer, these centres offer annual screening mammography and breast MRI, and facilitate follow-up breast assessment services for abnormal screens.
Benefits of organized screening
Women are encouraged to get screened through the OBSP because organized screening offers important benefits:
- inviting women to participate in screening
- reminding participants when it is time for their next screening test
- notifying participants of screening results
- tracking participants throughout screening processes
- evaluating program quality and performance
- screening sites accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiologists’ Mammography Accreditation Program
An organized screening program can find cancer earlier, leading to better health outcomes.
Screening more women for breast cancer
To increase screening rates, we are working with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and other partners to:
- more aggressively promote screening
- use information technology and other supports to help primary care providers with screening
- increase efforts to reach under-screened populations including new Canadians, people living in poverty, people without a family physician, First Nations, Métis, Inuit and other Aboriginal people
We aim to increase the proportion of Ontario women who have breast cancer screening, especially those from more vulnerable populations, by supporting local and regional innovative approaches to screening.