What is Breast Cancer Screening?
Breast cancer screening checks for cancer in your breast before you or your doctor notice anything wrong (such as a lump). We recommend that all women aged 50 – 69 years be screened for breast cancer every two years. Before making a decision, it is important to understand the pros and cons of having your breasts screened for cancer.
How is it done?
By having a screening mammogram, which takes X-rays of your breasts. This is done by compressing your breast between two plates of the x-ray machine to take pictures of different angles of your breast.
Where can I be screened?
There are two places you can have a screening mammogram.
1. ClaraBus or SophieAir, which is a mobile mammogram machine offered by the Public Health Institute of Quebec, which comes to the communities every two years.
2. Chibougamau or Val-d’Or Hospital
What is breast cancer?
The cells in your breast can sometimes change or no longer grow or act normally. These changes may cause: 1. Non-cancerous (benign) breast conditions, such a cyst, which usually are not harmful. 2. Breast cancer, which is a group of cancer cells (tumor) that may or may not grow into and destroy nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body (metastasize).
What can happen if breast cancer is found?
Three different situations:
1. Breast cancer that can be treated and cured.
2. Breast cancer that can get worse. Some breast cancer can not be cured.
3. Breast cancer that will not get worse. Some breast cancer will be treated even though it would have done no harm if left alone. This is what we call Overdiagnosis.
It is not possible to know which type of cancer a woman might have. This is why treatment is recommended whenever breast cancer is found.
Is breast self-examination still recommended?
No, checking your own breasts is no longer recommended. If you have any signs or symptoms, such as pain in your breasts or if you happened to find a lump in the breast, we encourage you to have it checked it out by the doctor at your CMC.
Recommendations vary by age and family history.
Recommendation for women 50–69
You will get a letter from the CBHSSJB ublic health department, inviting you the opportunity to be screened with the ClaraBus/SophieAir.
What are the pros and cons on having a screening mammogram?
For some women that had a screening mammogram, some of them will not die from breast cancer. These women get a head start on cancer treatment, which can help stop it from spreading to the rest of the body.
- For example, Irene had an abnormal result after her screening mammogram. She went to Val-D’or Hospital, which they did an ultrasound and biopsy and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated in Montreal at the Breast Clinic and is now in remission from breast cancer.
Sometimes abnormal results from a mammogram look like cancer, but turn out to be non-cancerous. Women with these false alarms may suffer from physical and emotional stress, and anxiety while waiting for follow-up tests.
- For example, Nancy had an abnormal result after her screening mammogram. She went to Val-D’or Hospital, which they did a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy to find out it is not cancer.
Recommendations for women 50 to 60
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of being screened for breast cancer.
Of 1000 women your age, screened with a mammogram every 2 years:
- More women have additional examination
- More breast cancers are discovered
- There are less breast cancer death
- Some breast cancers found would be cases of overdiagnosis
For this age group, there are more pros than cons. This is why we recommend you to be screened for breast cancer, but the choice is yours! It is your decision is you would like to be screened!
If you decide to be screened with ClaraBus/SophieAir, contact your local Chiishayiyuu CHR or medical secretary to book an appointment. Please bring your letter and medicare to your appointment.
If for any reason, you can’t be screened with ClaraBus/ SophieAir, you still will be able to do the screening mammogram at Chibougamau or Val d’Or Hospital.
If you decide to not be screened, please inform your please contact your local Chiishayiyuu CHR of your decision.
Recommendations for all women with a family history of breast cancer
If you have a biological family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer, we recommend that you visit your doctor to discuss at what age to begin screening. In the case of a very strong family history, a genetics consultation may be advised.
If you do not have a biological family history of breast or ovarian cancer, you will be contacted when you turn 50 and offered the opportunity to be screened in the CLARA bus program.
Recommendations for women under 50 and over 69
Any screening before the age of 50 or after the age of 69 requires a special visit with the physician for informed consent. In this cases, a consult must be provided by the physician.
For more information:
Interview with Lucy Trapper on breast cancer screening in Eeyou Istchee:
Posters, photos and the Clara Bus 2018 schedule:
Quebec’s Ministry of Health & Social Services Breast Cancer Screening Program
To help understand and be better informed to make a decision, visit BE THE CHOICE:
For more information about breast cancer, visit the CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY:
Irene Chu, BScN, MPH, RN
Nurse Counsellor for Chronic Diseases Management
Regional Public Health Department
Maggie Odell, MDCM
DPSMA/Regional Public Health Department