Just Do It!

Start the New Year with Self-Care Breast Cancer Screening – Just Do It!

There are many things for which we can be grateful as we greet 2022. 

We have, collectively, made it through another year of COVID-19. It has been difficult, for sure, but 2021 is history. 

It’s pretty clear, though, that COVID is with us for a while. However, that doesn’t mean it should be the only focus of our lives going forward. 

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped breast cancer. But it has substantially slowed screening for breast cancer. And that’s worrisome. 

Kristi MacKenzie, director of the regional cancer program at the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC), notes that the current backlog in screening is estimated at almost 37,000 people in the Hamilton-Niagara-Haldimand-Brant region who are overdue for their mammograms. 

“Since August 2021, we are now seeing consistent breast cancer screening volumes above the pre-pandemic activity,” she said. “But it is estimated that it will take several months to years to recover from the screening backlog.” 

Breast cancer screening is something that you do when you’re feeling well and have no symptoms. Medical professionals are concerned because delayed screening can lead to more advanced cancer at diagnosis, impacting both treatment and prognosis. 

The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) aims to encourage eligible women to get screened for breast cancer. The OBSP recommends that most women aged 50 to 74 have a mammogram every two years.  

Women aged 30 to 69 who are determined to be at high risk for developing breast cancer should be screened every year with both a mammogram and a breast MRI. 

It is important to remember that these are general guidelines and recommendations may differ based on an individual’s personal and family health history. It’s important to have a conversation with your primary care provider about what screening is right for you. 

Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario) sends a letter in the mail inviting women in the general population to begin screening when they turn 50 and when it’s time to book their next mammogram once they are in the program. If you receive a letter, you can call and book an appointment directly with the CIBC Breast Assessment Centre (or another OBSP location) without needing a referral from your family doctor. 

Women in the high-risk category need an initial referral from their primary care provider to determine their eligibility for the program. Once they are in the program, they will receive an annual reminder letter from the OBSP location where they have their screening done. 

For breast cancer patients who are in treatment, regular breast cancer surveillance appointments are set up by the medical team.  

Most patients who “graduate” from JCC and return to their family doctor’s care are advised to have imaging completed annually. A referral is required, so it’s important to be aware of when you are coming due for imaging and follow up with your family doctor. 

And no matter what category you fall in, be aware of your breast health and follow through with regular appointments. Remember, cancer screening helps early diagnosis and that can make all the difference in the world.