|07/18: BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Mammography Program celebrates 20th anniversary (Fraser Health)|
First provincial program of its kind in Canada has contributed to BC’s favourable outcomes for breast cancer
Twenty years ago today, Jean Orr, a 78 year old retired ballet dancer, became the first woman in B.C. to receive a screening mammogram from the BC Cancer Agency’s Screening Mammography Program (SMP).
“You can’t wait until something bad happens. It’s very important to be proactive in taking care of your own body,” says Orr. “After getting my first mammogram, two of my colleagues and I created a buddy system, and over the next 12 years, the three of us made it a regular event to get screened together.”
“I had a scare after finding a lump in my breast when I was carrying my fourth child. Thankfully, it was benign,” recalls Orr, a proud mother of six, grandmother to 19 and great-grandmother to two. “This incident served as another reminder of the importance of regular screening mammograms. I continue to get checked, and I encourage all women to do the same.”
Since giving its first screening mammogram on July 18, 1988, the SMP has gone on to perform more than four million examinations. Last year, the SMP screened over 277,000 BC women. Regular screening mammograms have shown to reduce the death rate from breast cancer by 24 percent in the province.
“Breast cancer can be a devastating disease and it touches the lives of many British Columbians – our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters and friends,” said Mary Polak, Minister of Healthy Living and Sport and MLA for Langley. “Regular screening through the Screening Mammography Program is one of the most effective tools for the early detection of breast cancer and is a great way for B.C. women to monitor their breast health.”
The SMP collaborates closely with regional health authorities, including Fraser Health, and community partners, to ensure that eligible women, no matter where they live, can access mammography screening.
“I am very pleased to be a part of the Screening Mammography Program of BC. While most women do not ‘like’ to have a mammogram, we often get comments from our clients about how much they appreciate being able to take charge of their own health care,” says Sylvia Norton, a mammography technologist for over 25 years and the chief technologist at the screening mammography centre in Coquitlam.
“It is through the hard work of committed Agency staff and our partners in the community that we have been able to run such a successful program over the last 20 years,” says Dr. Andy Coldman, Vice President of Population Oncology, BC Cancer Agency. “It is important that all eligible women take advantage of this program so that we can continue to reduce breast cancer mortality through early detection.”
Over the last two decades, the SMP has taken strides to improve the program and increase participation rates. For example, to reach out to diverse communities across the province, the SMP created new education brochures in Chinese and Punjabi languages. To help reduce the anxiety faced by women with an abnormal mammogram, SMP introduced "Fast Track” – a province-wide program to reduce the time between an abnormal screen and diagnosis.
SMP has 37 fixed locations and three mobile services covering more than 150 communities across B.C. Women aged 40 to 79 can book an appointment for a free mammogram directly, without a doctor’s referral, by calling 604-660-3639 or 1-800-663-9203.
In the Fraser Health region, BC Cancer Agency’s SMP centres are located in:
The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.
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