Poll: Majority of Canadian women believe benefits of breast cancer screening in their 40s outweigh risks

Would save lives says Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

TORONTO, Sept. 14, 2011 /CNW/ - Canadian women overwhelmingly believe that the benefits of earlier breast cancer screening programs are far more important to them than the limited risks of false positive results, a new national public opinion survey shows.

The survey, conducted by Strategic Communications Inc. on behalf of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, sought views about breast cancer screening from 1,670 Canadian women. Breast cancer continues to be the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Canadian women. Today, 1 in 6 women who die from breast cancer are diagnosed in their 40s.

When women were provided information about the potential for "false positives" during screening and what the outcomes of those results could be, 87.5 per cent of respondents still felt the benefits of organized screening for women 40-49 were more important.

In fact, Canadian women appear to be more concerned about being thoroughly-tested than the possibility of a false alarm. The survey found that if offered the choice between two theoretical screening tests:

  • A majority (63 per cent) of Canadian women would choose a screening test that "never misses cancer but 1-in-10 tests are false alarms"
  • Only 20 per cent would choose a test that "misses 1-in-3 cancers but gives no false alarms."

The public opinion findings support scientific findings that emerged from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's It's About Time! Scientific Consensus report, based on a conference which involved more than 70 leading researchers, clinicians and decision makers from Canada, the United States and Europe. The conference reviewed the most relevant and current screening research and concluded that women 40-49 benefit from access to organized breast cancer screening programs.

In addition, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation National Grant Competition on the Earlier Detection of Breast Cancer, a $5 million initiative, will be launched this month, underscoring the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's commitment to earlier detection as a nation-wide priority to reduce the impact of breast cancer.

The new survey research released today reveals that more than 85 per cent of Canadian women feel organized screening for women ages 40 to 49 is effective, while 88 per cent believe it is "very important" that women across the country have equal access to organized breast screening programs.

"While recognizing current economic challenges and the need to ensure that women over age 50 continue to have full access to organized screening, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) believes that we need to work towards all Canadian women aged 40-49 being able to participate in provincial and territorial organized breast screening programs," said Sandra Palmaro, CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Ontario Region.

"Breast cancer screening technology is evolving. Treatments are improving. But one fact remains - we know from scientific evidence that earlier detection and diagnosis through an organized breast cancer screening program can save lives and reduce mortality among women 40-49 at average risk of diagnosis by an estimated 25 per cent."

The survey also showed that about half of Canadian women are confused about when they become eligible for organized breast cancer screening, which is a barrier to participation. In six provinces or territories - British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories and Yukon - women 40-49 are eligible for organized programs. However, in six others - Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland - they are not eligible until age 50.

Dr. Martin Yaffe, a breast cancer researcher at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, said one in six women who die from breast cancer are diagnosed in their 40s.

"Many women who die from the disease in their 50s might have been diagnosed with earlier stage breast cancer and treated more effectively had they been screened in their 40s," he said.

"Over 10 years, an estimated 1800 lives might potentially be saved if these women were screened in their 40's. "

In Canada, federally-issued recommendations on breast cancer early detection and diagnosis have not been updated since 2001. Since that time, new evidence and technologies have emerged on a range of relevant screening issues. The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health is expected to release new clinical practice guidelines and recommendations on breast cancer screening this fall.

"CBCF is encouraging those provinces and territories where organized screening does not start until age 50 to take a first step and allow women 40 to 49 to join organized screening programs when recommended by their health care providers," said Palmaro.

*The survey by Strategic Communications Inc. of 1,671 Canadian women was conducted July 22-25, 2011. It was statistically weighted to ensure the sample's regional age composition reflects the actual Canadian population according to the 2006 Census. The results are considered accurate +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

About the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
For the last 25 years, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has been at the forefront of a nation-wide movement to raise awareness and mobilize action on breast cancer. Today, the Foundation is the leading organization in Canada dedicated to creating a future without breast cancer. Since 1986, from coast to coast, we have invested over $230 million to fund vital research, education and health promotion programs that have led progress in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. Visit www.cbcf.org and join the movement.

SOURCE Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (Ontario Chapter)

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or to arrange interviews contact: 

Rob McCartney, Office 416- 645-3652, Mobile 416-419-6544


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Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (Ontario Chapter)

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