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Who Should Get a Mammogram?

The Screening Mammography Program of BC (SMP) provides free screening mammograms for eligible women in British Columbia. Women between the ages of 40 to 74 are eligible for screening mammograms.

If you are age 40 to 74 with a first degree relative (mother, daughter, sister) with breast cancer:

It is recommended that you get a mammogram every year.

Women with a family history of breast cancer are almost two times more likely to develop breast cancer. A doctor’s referral is not needed.

If you are age 40 to 49 without a family history of breast cancer:

You are encouraged to talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of mammography.

If screening mammography is chosen, it is available every two years. A doctor’s referral is not needed but is recommended.

If you are age 50 to 74 without a family history of breast cancer:

It is recommended that you get a mammogram every two years.

For women in this age group, the benefits of screening mammograms clearly outweigh the limitations. Book your appointment today. A doctor’s referral is not needed.

If you are age 75+:

You are encouraged to talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of mammography.

If screening mammography is chosen, it is available every two to three years. A doctor’s referral is not needed but is recommended.

If you are younger than age 40:

Screening mammograms are not recommended unless you have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, prior chest wall radiation or strong family history of breast cancer. A doctor’s referral is needed for every screen.

Women are not eligible for a screening mammogram if they:

  • Have breast enhancements like implants or injections (see your doctor to arrange a mammogram).
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding (you can use SMP 3 months after completely finishing breastfeeding; see your doctor immediately if you experience any new problems).
  • Have a previous history of breast cancer.
  • Have any new breast complaints such as a lump or nipple discharge (see your doctor immediately if you experience any new problems).
  • Have had a mammogram on both breasts in the last 12 months (you must wait at least one year before having another screening mammogram).

Your questions

Mammograms are available to women with breast implants. The difference is that a woman with implants cannot participate in SMP but instead will have a diagnostic mammogram which requires a doctor’s referral. A diagnostic mammogram allows for the extra time and techniques needed to ensure that the entire breast tissue is visible. Please speak to your doctor for more information.

 
If you notice any new changes in your breast such as a lump or nipple discharge, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will help you determine if further testing is required.

If your doctor decides that you need testing, you will be booked for an appointment at a diagnostic imaging office and you will be seen very quickly. This process is different than regular breast screening, which is done with women who have no breast concerns or symptoms.
 
Screening mammograms are for women with no breast problems and are not considered urgent care. With 37 centres and 3 mobile services available in the province, most centres’ wait-times are within a 6 week time frame. From time to time, some centres will become busier resulting in slightly longer wait times. 

If you are unable to have a screening mammogram appointment at an SMP centre or mobile service within 2 months with a travel time to the facility/service within 1 hour, contact your primary care provider. Your primary care provider can book a screening mammogram at any diagnostic facility and it will be billed to the Medical Services Plan of BC.
 

A reminder is sent in the mail when it's time to return. When you receive your reminder, be sure to book your next appointment. Also, make sure we have the most up to date address information for you. To update your contact information, call us at 1-800-663-9203.

 

Thermography isn't recommended for a population-based screening program such as SMP as there is no evidence to support the use of thermography as a screening tool for breast cancer. Thermal imaging equipment is not approved for breast screening by Health Canada.


Thermography has a high false-positive rate which could lead to unnecessary tests. It can also miss abnormalities that can be detected through a screening mammogram. For these reasons, the BC Cancer Agency recommends against thermography as a replacement for screening mammography - a position shared by many prominent health organizations across North America.

 

SOURCE: Who Should Get a Mammogram? ( )
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