Breast Screening Demand Grows, Overall Rates Level Off

Efforts must focus on reaching low income, immigrant and Aboriginal women

TORONTO, Oct. 11 – The number of women aged 50-69 requiring regular breast screening has increased by 3.3 per cent this year and more of these women are benefiting from the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP). The overall proportion of women aged 50 to 69 receiving a mammogram, however, has leveled off at approximately 60 per cent, below Ontario’s target of 70 per cent of eligible women screened by 2010. Efforts must focus on raising screening rates among women living in poverty, new Canadians and Aboriginal women.”The most important way to save lives from breast cancer is to make sure all women aged 50 and over have access to high quality screening services, particularly vulnerable populations of women,” said Terry Sullivan, president & CEO, Cancer Care Ontario.

The OBSP offers important advantages to women. Women with or without a family physician can be screened through the OBSP. Women can book their own appointments and are reminded by letter when they are due for their next mammogram.

All OBSP sites are accredited with the Canadian Association of Radiologists Mammography Accreditation Program. In addition, OBSP sites, staff and equipment are checked on an ongoing basis to make sure they offer good quality mammograms at all times. According to the Cancer System Quality Index, 30.3 per cent of women aged 50-69 were screened through the Ontario Breast Cancer Screening Program (OBSP) and 29.7 per cent in clinics outside the OBSP program in 2004-2005.

“Mammograms are the most reliable way of finding breast cancer and considered the gold standard for most women,” said Dr. Verna Mai, director of screening, Cancer Care Ontario. “Regular breast screening by mammography can find cancers early when they are small and less likely to have spread which means that there are more treatment options.”

To reach more women, the OBSP is promoting and recruiting additional breast screening affiliates in Ontario. Nine new screening sites joined in 2006-07 and up to 17 new sites are planned for 2007-08. The Ontario Government’s 2007/08 budget committed to fund the OBSP to complete over 600,000 screens or more, per year, by 2010-11, over double the number of annual screens currently offered through the Program. Cancer Care Ontario is working with partner organizations including the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (Ontario) and the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario) to implement targeted strategies to boost screening rates among hard-to-reach women.

Since the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), a provincial program of Cancer Care Ontario, started screening women for breast cancer in 1990, it has detected over 12,000 cancers. Three quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the OBSP have early stage breast cancers (they have not spread to the lymph nodes). Early detection means that most of these women had more treatment options, a reduced chance of cancer recurrence, and an improved chance of survival.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Ontario women. It is anticipated in 2007 that 8,500 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 2,000 will die from it. In Ontario, it is recommended that women aged 50 and older have a screening mammogram, generally every two years.

Cancer Care Ontario is the provincial agency that steers and coordinates Ontario’s cancer services and prevention efforts so that fewer people get cancer and patients receive the highest quality of care.

To find an OBSP site, women can call 1-800-668-9304 or visit

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For further information: Elizabeth McCarthy, Communications Specialist, Public Affairs, Cancer Care Ontario, Tel: (416) 971-9800 x. 3339, Email:

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