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Q & A: Breast Cancer Screening

How often should women be screened for breast cancer? Is it every two years, or every three years?

The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) recommends breast screening every two years for women aged 50 to
74 years.

Although in 2011 the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care changed its breast screening recommendation to every two to three years for women 50 to 69 years, the OBSP has maintained its  recommendation to screen women 50 to 74 every two years.

What are the breast screening recommendations for women under 50 years?

The breast cancer screening recommendations vary for women under 50 years.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists recommends annual screening mammography for asymptomatic women 40–49 years. Where there is a family history of a first degree relative (mother, sister, etc.) with pre-menopausal breast cancer, referral for mammography may be advised at an age five to ten years younger than the age of the relative’s diagnosis.

The OBSP does not routinely recommend screening mammography for women under age 50. Instead,  it encourages women to make a personal decision in consultation with their primary care provider. If a woman 40-49 years of age chooses to undergo screening mammography, this can be obtained at a breast imaging facility outside of the OBSP and will be covered by OHIP.

For women at high risk, which is confirmed by genetic assessment, the OBSP offers annual screening mammography and breast MRI for women aged 30–69 years through their High Risk Breast Screening Program.

What are the breast screening recommendations for women over 74 years?

Women over 74 years can be screened within the OBSP. Since their risk continues to rise, they are encouraged to continue screening at one to two- year intervals.

This group will not receive a reminder letter to return for their next screening appointment. However, the OBSP encourages this group to phone and arrange their next screening visit.

Health factors may influence women’s decision to continue screening. They are encouraged to make a personal decision about breast cancer screening in consultation with their primary care provider.

What is the retention rate for the OBSP?

In Champlain, 86.9% of women had a subsequent OBSP screening mammogram within 30 months of a previous program mammogram (data from CSQI 2009).

These retention rates are no doubt partly due to the strong recall process in place within the OBSP.

What percentage of women ages 50-74 had a mammogram in the last two years?

In Champlain, 62.7% of women completed at least one mammogram in a two year interval (data from CSQI 2010-11).


More OBSP Screening and Assessment Centres to open early 2014

Screening Centre:
Queensway Carleton Hospital
3045 Baseline Road, Ottawa
613-721-4711, option 3

Assessment Centres:
Arnprior & District Memorial Hospital
350 John Street North, Arnprior
613-623-7962 ext. 359

Queensway Carleton Hospital
3045 Baseline Road, Ottawa
613-721-4711, option 3

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