TORONTO, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - Screening saves lives. Many studies have shown
that regular mammograms for women aged 50-69 reduce deaths from breast cancer
by up to a third. Close to 63 per cent of Ontario women are being screened for
mammograms every two years but we need to do better. In an interview with Dr.
Verna Mai, Director of Screening at Cancer Care Ontario we discuss some common
reasons why women don't get screened and explain why they should.
Many women feel healthy and don't think they need a mammogram, should they
The best time to go for breast screening is when you feel fine and you do
not have any breast problems. Going for regular mammography can help find
small breast cancers years before you would notice any signs or symptoms. When
breast cancer is caught early, the rates of successful treatment are much
What if a woman's doctor hasn't suggested it?
Women aged 50-69 can make an appointment at their local Ontario Breast
Screening Program (OBSP) site without a doctor's referral. If a woman has
questions about the benefits of mammography she should talk to her doctor.
Do most of the women who develop breast cancer have a family history of
No. Having a family history of breast cancer (a mother, sister or daughter
who has had breast cancer) is a risk factor, but only 11 per cent of women who
get breast cancer have a strong family history of the disease.
We know mammography works and is the most effective tool for detecting
breast cancer early in most women, but in order to save more lives from this
disease, more women need to get screened.
Is there anything women can do to make their mammograms more comfortable?
When you have a mammogram you will feel some pressure on your breast. It
feels similar to a tight blood pressure cuff. A few women experience some pain
but it lasts only a few seconds.
If a woman feels pain during the screening, she should tell the
technologist. The technologist may be able to adjust the pressure. The two of
you can work together so you are as comfortable as possible.
Women may also want to consider that many women's breasts are tender the
week before and after their period, so booking your mammogram for a time when
your breasts are not so tender could help.
Some women take a mild pain relief pill, such as the kind you would take
for a headache, about one hour before the appointment, but you should only do
this if it will not affect any other medicines or any health concerns you may
There has even been some suggestions by other experts that having less
caffeine for two weeks before the appointment can help reduce tenderness.
What else should women know about breast screening?
Women should be familiar with how their breasts look and feel. If you
notice any changes, such as a lump or dimpling, changes in your nipple, or
fluid leaking from your nipple, skin changes or redness that doesn't go away
or any other changes, talk to your doctor. Keep in mind that most changes are
not cancerous, but should be checked right away.
As part of a regular health checkup women should have a physical breast
exam by a doctor or nurse and if you are 50 or older, have regular mammograms
at the Ontario Breast Screening Program.
Should women be getting screened for other cancers?
All women who have ever had any sexual contact need to have regular Pap
tests to find cell changes in the cervix early, before they become cancer.
With regular Pap tests and the HPV vaccine, it is possible to prevent cervical
cancer. Both men and women 50 and over should be screened every two years for
colorectal cancer using a Fecal Occult Blood Test or FOBT. People at increased
risk for colorectal cancer (i.e. with a parent, sibling or child with
colorectal cancer) should be screened for colorectal cancer by colonoscopy
starting at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the relative's age at diagnosis,
whichever comes first. Make sure to talk to your doctor to determine if you
are at increased risk for any of these diseases.
For more information on breast, cervical and colorectal screening please
To book an appointment at the Ontario Breast Screening Program Site
nearest you call:
Cancer Care Ontario continually improves cancer services so that fewer
people get cancer and patients receive better care.
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For further information:
For further information: Elizabeth McCarthy, Advisor - Public Affairs,
Cancer Care Ontario, Tel: (416) 971-9800 x. 3339, Email: