Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in British Columbian women – but breast cancer screening mammography rates on the Sunshine Coast are low. Currently just 50 per cent of eligible women are getting screened.
Each day, the BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Mammography Program finds approximately five new breast cancers in women who did not have any signs or symptoms of the disease. In 2015, of the estimated 3,400 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in BC, 1,408 women had their breast cancers found as a result of regular screening, giving these women an early jump on their cancer treatment.
Screening mammograms are for women who do not have any symptoms of breast cancer – and can help find cancer in its earliest stages when more treatment options are available. Screening mammography is able to find most lumps two to three years before a woman can feel them herself and research has shown a 25 per cent reduction in deaths from breast cancer among women who screen regularly.
The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age: more than 80 per cent of new breast cancers diagnosed each year in BC are in women 50 years and older; most women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease; and, of all women that are diagnosed with breast cancer, approximately 75 per cent have no identifiable risk factors.
This is why breast cancer screening is essential.
Screening mammograms are available for women 40 to 74 years of age and women within this age range are encouraged to discuss the benefits and limitations of mammography with their doctor. If they choose to have a mammogram, it is available to them every two years without a doctor’s referral, unless they have a first degree relative (mother, sister or daughter) with breast cancer, in which case they should have a mammogram every year. Women can visit www.screeningbc.ca/breast to learn more.