Breast Cancer month: Screening for marginalized women must improve

TORONTO, Oct. 21 /CNW/ - October is Breast Cancer month and Echo: Improving Women's Health in Ontario, encourages women to participate in the Ontario Breast Cancer Screening Program (OBSP).

Currently, the program is available to women aged 50-69 since the risk of breast cancer triples for women as they approach their late 40s and early 50s.

Echo CEO Pat Campbell emphasized the need to place a special focus on enhanced screening for marginalized women. "Too many women are falling through the cracks," said Campbell. "Cancer is a health issue facing all women, regardless of where they're from or how much money they make. Our goal is to see screening numbers rise, not only among the groups who are already using the program, but among those who are not."

Unfortunately, women living in poverty and new Canadians are among the least likely to be screened according to the POWER Study, a project funded by Echo. The study reported that women from low-income neighbourhoods had consistently lower screening rates across the province. The findings were reported in the recently published POWER Study chapter on cancer (www.powerstudy.ca). Statistics from Cancer Care Ontario indicate that new Canadians, women without a family physician and Aboriginals are also among those least likely to take advantage of the OBSP.

In Ontario, only 60 per cent of women aged 50-69 participate in regular screening through the OBSP or other screening mechanisms.

"We need to do more to get women over 50, who are already eligible, to participate in the OBSP in greater numbers. We know that there are definite benefits for that group since cancer is so much more prevalent and early detection through screening saves lives," said Campbell.

A comprehensive screening program like the OBSP offers women aged 50-69 more than just access to a mammogram. Through the OBSP patients also receive:

    
    -   The opportunity to self refer - especially important for those women
        without access to primary care;
    -   Invitations, recall notices and letters to remind women when to
        return for their next screening;
    -   Screening results sent to both the patient and her doctor within two
        weeks; and
    -   Coordination of extra tests or referrals if necessary.
    

"The early detection of breast cancer gives women more effective treatment options and a reduced chance of the cancer recurring," says Dr. George Pasut, vice president, Prevention and Screening, Cancer Care Ontario. "We must continue to focus our approach in an effort to reach underscreened or never screened populations. This includes improving awareness of the benefits and access to screening and follow-up services."

About Echo - Echo is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Echo's mandate is to be the focal point and catalyst for women's health at the provincial level. Echo promotes equity and improved health for women by working in collaborative partnerships with the health system, communities, researchers and policy-makers.

SOURCE ECHO

For further information: For further information: Julie McFayden, Public Affairs and Community Engagement Officer, (416) 597-9687 ext. 232, jmcfayden@echo-ontario.ca; or John Ecker, Director, Public Affairs and Community Engagement, (416) 597-9687 ext. 223, jecker@echo-ontario.ca

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