As October is nearly here, officials are gearing up to continue their work of building awareness across the nation via Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There are a number of events taking place in towns and cities across the nation, including Run for the Cure in Red Deer on Oct. 2nd.
This event brings together a community of people who have a personal connection to breast cancer and want to show their support. It’s an inspirational day that raises significant funds for Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the largest charitable funder of breast cancer research in Canada.
According to their web site, “CBCF invests these dollars in the most promising breast cancer research that is leading the way in prevention, diagnosis and treatment and care, as well as funding Canada’s leading breast cancer patient support network, which works to improve the quality of life and the emotional support needed for those affected by this disease.”
Meanwhile, early detection is the key, and that’s where a special program that is marking 25 years of serving communities comes in.
Screen Test is celebrating 25 years of mobile mammography services across Alberta, which has detected thousands of cancers early and saved lives. The Alberta Health Services (AHS) program started at a single site, in Hinton, in 1991.
Today, two 16-metre semi-trailers visit more than 110 rural communities, including 23 indigenous communities, every year.
Screen Test has completed 466,858 mammograms for 178,000 Albertans. Out of those screened, more than 21,000 Albertans have had an abnormal result detected and were recalled for further testing. Out of those clients recalled, more than 2,500 – or 12% – had breast cancer detected.
According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age. In 2015, it was estimated that 82% of new breast cancer cases would occur in Canadian women over the age of 50.
Fifty-two per cent of breast cancers were expected to be diagnosed in women 50 to 69 years of age and 30% of breast cancers were expected to be diagnosed in women over the age of 69.
In 2015, an estimated 5,000 women were expected to die of breast cancer in Canada.
Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in Canadian women, accounting for 14% of all cancer-related deaths. The proportion of women dying from breast cancer has been dropping incrementally over time, according to the Foundation.
The leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadian women continues to be lung cancer.
“Early detection is so important with cancer,” says Dr. Francois Belanger, AHS vice president, Quality and Chief Medical Officer. “The chance of dying from breast cancer is reduced by 30 per cent if detected early, and it is much easier to treat if it is localized to the breast and has not spread to other areas. Screening helps with this detection significantly.”
In the past, if a woman underwent a mammogram, it was usually after she had discovered a lump or experienced other breast symptoms.
“Our mobile screening units are able to reach women who otherwise may not get a screening mammogram,” Belanger says. “We can bring services to unique populations, and rural and remote communities as well. I want to thank the many staff and volunteers who have helped make this service so successful over the past 25 years.”
Because mammograms may not identify all types of breast cancer, patients are still advised to see their doctors for additional tests even if they have normal mammogram results but notice physical changes in their breasts, or can feel a lump.
Screen Test targets women 50 to 74; when women in Alberta turn 50, they receive an invitation letter to undergo a screening mammogram.
It is recommended women aged 50 to 74 have a screening mammogram at least every two years, and women between 40 and 49 who choose to be screened have a mammogram each year.
Visit www.screeningforlife.ca/breast for more information on the program, including eligibility and referrals.