It is important that women make an informed decision to screen by being aware of the benefits and limitations of screening mammography.
Finding cancer early means that it is less likely to have spread and treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease.
Approximately one in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime and one in 28 women is expected to die from the disease.
Screening mammograms are the best method for detecting breast cancer early. Mammograms can usually find lumps two or three years before a woman or her doctor can feel them.
Research has shown a 25 per cent reduction in deaths from breast cancer among women who are screened regularly.
While women with a family history of breast cancer have a higher than average risk, the most significant risk factor
for breast cancer is being a woman over 50 years of age.
Over 80 per cent of new breast cancers diagnosed each year in BC are in women age 50 or older.
Not all breasts look the same on a mammogram – a woman’s age or breast density can make cancers more or less difficult to see. In general, screening mammograms are less effective in younger women because they tend to have denser breast tissue.
Some cancers cannot be detected on a mammogram due to the location of the cancer or the density of the breast tissue. About 25 per cent of cancers in women ages 40-49 are not detectable by a screening mammogram, compared with about 10 per cent in women older than 50.
On average, seven per cent of women screened through the Screening Mammography Program of BC will require additional testing to look more closely at a specific area of the breast. This does not mean that a cancer was found – over 95 per cent of the women recalled for additional testing do not have cancer.
The benefits of regular mammograms outweigh the risks posed by the small amount of radiation you are exposed to.