Breast Screening Saves Lives!

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

OTTAWA, ON, Oct. 3, 2022 /CNW/ – 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 of Breast Screening, 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 pandemic thousands of non-urgent procedures were postponed, minimizing the further spread of COVID, however this resulted in many Canadian patients facing uncertainty regarding their health.

Ewa Hodges from Toronto, Ontario knows firsthand the importance of medical imaging for cancer care. In 2020, Ewa was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. She underwent surgery and treatment, and in the year that followed, she needed follow-up imaging to monitor her condition. When the pandemic caused many facilities to cancel or delay scheduled services, Ewa’s follow-up imaging was cancelled because it was deemed not urgent. Despite having a very aggressive form of cancer, she was not able to access the tests she needed.

“When cancers are caught early, less aggressive therapies can be used, and treatments are more likely to succeed. Because of advancements in diagnostics and treatment, more people are surviving cancer. However, as the number of cancer cases in Canada continue to increase, our healthcare system faces increasing demand for cancer services, including diagnostic imaging. This demand has only increased with delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we build back from the impacts of the pandemic, rapid access to medical imaging procedures for those suspected of having cancer must be prioritized. People in Canada deserve equitable access to cancer diagnostic services, regardless of where they live.” – Kelly Masotti, Vice President of Advocacy, Canadian Cancer Society

“The world was not ready for the magnitude of this global health crisis. Fast forward two and a half years later and, we are in a much better position to deal with COVID. Safety protocols have been well established to keep patients safe, and the majority of Canadians have been fully vaccinated. Mammography centres are prepared to manage COVID risks and to serve patients who are awaiting live saving screening exams,” said Dr. Flegg.

There are, however, challenges in terms of timely access to breast screening, diagnostic mammography and biopsies. With the influx of patients entering the health system and limited radiology health human resources it is increasingly challenging to serve patients in an expedited manner. It should also be noted that there is a shortage of medical imaging equipment in Canada on a per capita basis. Also, much of the equipment is old –30% of medical imaging equipment is over 10 years old, which does not meet the international life cycle equipment standards.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) is advocating for improved access to medical imaging for Canadians. A series of recommendations were put forward to the Federal government for the sustainability of radiology now and into the future. 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 2023 CAR Pre-Budget Submission.

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.

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.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Radiologists

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