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Breast Screening Saves Lives!

Monday, October 11, 2021 10:22:00 AM

- "In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Radiologists are urging Canadian women 40 years and over to schedule their annual breast screening exam." -

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women. Although now more than ever people are surviving breast cancer, early detection through screening is vital. Making healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk, however, the reality is there are other factors such as family history that can impact the onset of cancer. For Canadian women this is especially true with breast cancer.

"One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Considering these odds, women should take an active role in their health, said Dr. Carolyn Flegg, Breast Imaging Radiologist and Medical Director, the Irene and Les Dubé Breast Health Centre at Saskatoon City Hospital, Saskatchewan. The Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) recommends that women 40 and older have an annual screening exam. This can help with early detection of disease and improve overall patient outcomes.

During the first wave of the pandemic annual mammography exams were brought to a halt. Thousands of non-urgent procedures were postponed due to safety concerns, minimizing the further spread of COVID. "The world was not ready for the magnitude of this global health crisis. Fast forward a year and a half later and, we are in a much better position to deal with the situation. The Public Health Agency of Canada has put protocols in place to keep patients safe, the majority of Canadians 12 and over have been fully vaccinated and mammography screening facilities have resumed normal hours of operation so that they can better serve patients awaiting live saving screening exams," said Dr. Flegg.

In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the CAR is encouraging women who are 40 and over, and who have not yet booked their annual screening exams, to do so today. The consequences of not screening can result in an increase of undiagnosed breast cancers, ultimately affecting survival outcomes.

In her current role, Dr. Flegg has seen an increase in later stage cancers over the last year. She feels that this is directly attributed to the pandemic causing delayed or missed breast screening appointments. "We need to encourage people to attend their mammography examinations. While there is understandably fear regarding the spread of COVID, mammography facilities are focused on keeping patients safe and follow very strict guidelines to minimize the threat of the virus," says Dr. Flegg.

Breast screening is the single most important thing that women can do to reduce the instance of advanced breast cancer. "Early detection is key. For women who are treated early, when tumors are 2cm or smaller and have not spread to the lymph nodes, there is an over 95% 5-year survival rate. Patients can schedule a mammogram through self referral to a provincial screening program or through their health care provider," said Dr. Flegg.

The CAR continues to advocate for improved access to medical imaging for Canadians. In August 2021 the CAR submitted a series of recommendations to the Federal government for the sustainability of radiology now and beyond the pandemic. Within that submission the CAR is asking for an increased investment in medical imaging equipment and health human resources to better address patients needs and to reduce wait times across the country for medical imaging procedures. More information regarding this recommendation and others can be found in the 2022 CAR Pre-Budget Submission.

SOURCE: Canadian Association of Radiologists