Checking for Breast Cancer

Why is it important to check for breast cancer?

Staying healthy is important as you start your life in a new country. That’s why it is a good idea for women to get checked, or screened, for breast cancer. Cancer of the breast is the most common cancer in women living in Canada, and one in nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Each year, about 9,500 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and almost 2,000 will die from this disease.

Screening tests can find breast cancer before you have signs or symptoms. If breast cancer is found early, when it is very small, there is a good chance of treating it successfully.

Who should be screened for breast cancer?

More than 80% of breast cancers are found in women over age 50. Therefore, in Ontario it is recommended that women between the ages of 50 to 74 get screened for breast cancer by having a mammogram every two years. 

Some women may have a high risk for breast cancer because of their family or personal medical history. These women should have a mammogram and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) once a year if they are between the ages of 30 and 69. If you think you may be at high risk for breast cancer, ask your doctor whether you need high risk screening.

What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is a low-dose breast X-ray. It can find breast changes even when they are too small to feel or see. Most women will have normal mammogram results.

While mammograms are the best way to screen for breast cancer, there are limitations. Your doctor can answer any questions you might have.

How can I make a mammogram appointment?

You can make an appointment or ask your doctor to make an appointment at the breast screening clinic in your community. Mammograms are free for residents who have the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). They are also free for women without OHIP who have an average risk (as opposed to high risk) of getting breast cancer. If you do not have OHIP coverage, speak to your local community health centre.

Why do some women get a letter about breast cancer screening?

Breast cancer screening is so important that Cancer Care Ontario, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, sends letters to eligible women to invite them to have a mammogram. Women also get letters that tell them their screening results and remind them when it is time to return for screening. It is your choice to be screened or not.

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Last updated: October 28, 2019 4001655