‘Outdated’ breast cancer screening guidelines failing Canadian women: report

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Annie Slite has been battling breast cancer for the past eight years.

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Since her diagnosis in April 2013, the Montreal resident has had 16 treatments of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, a complete hysterectomy and two reconstructive surgeries. Although now in remission, she still has two years of hormonal drug therapy.

It’s a difficult test that could have been prevented if he had been diagnosed earlier, Little says.


“If I had been given proper screening in addition to a mammogram, the cancer would have been found at least a year and a half earlier. So the cancer has a long time to grow,” the 51-year-old who works in special education told Granthshala News.

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Slight had her first mammogram at the age of 40, which came out clear. However, what she was not told at the time was that she had dense breasts, which not only puts women at an increased risk of breast cancer, but the cancer is more difficult to detect with a standard mammogram.

Slight’s case is not unique. a new survey by non profit dense tits canada It turned out that 30 percent of women who had mammograms were not informed about their breast density. The survey was part of a report published on September 27 ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Currently in Canada, six provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – add density information to mammogram results. In all other jurisdictions, radiologists do not tell women their breast density category.

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Ontario mom Nicola St. George was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2019 – a year and a half after her first mammogram, which at the time did not detect anything. She was also not told that her breasts were thick.

George only decided to get tested again after finding a lump while doing a self-exam while lying in bed one night.

“I think women need to know they have dense breasts because you should have a follow-up mammogram and you should also do self-exams,” the 43-year-old high school teacher told Granthshala News.

“It’s really just my own luck that I decided to do a self-exam and really found it and followed it with my instincts.”

Experts say “inconsistencies” in breast screening practices are putting women at risk and that “outdated guidelines” are driving many people away from screening.

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According to the Dense Breast Canada survey, in which 2,530 women participated, 42 percent of respondents were not aware of an eligible age for mammography screening – which varies by province.

Ideally, all women’s annual mammograms should begin at age 40, as the risk of breast cancer increases at that age, says Dr. Paula Gordon said.

“Although breast cancer is less common in young women, when they do get it, it tends to grow and it spreads rapidly, so we want to catch breast cancer early in young women.”

And those with dense breasts should be offered complementary screening, either with ultrasound or MRI, she said.

Dr. Jean Seeley, chief of breast imaging at Ottawa Hospital, advises that women of African, Asian or Hispanic descent should begin screening before the age of 30 because their risks are higher.

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In Canada, only four jurisdictions — British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon — let women in their 40s book their mammograms. Elsewhere, demand by a physician is required, but there is concern that many women are being refused.

“Unfortunately, I probably hear every week about a woman asking her health care provider to refer her for a mammogram in her 40s and was unable to attend because of guidelines,” says Seeley. Said, who is also the chairman. Canadian Society of Breast Imaging.

She told Granthshala News that this is a worrying trend observed across the country which is leading to late diagnosis and loss of lives to women from breast cancer.

The survey showed that 11 percent of respondents aged 40-49 indicated that they had been refused a request for a mammogram by their health care provider.

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canadian task force on preventive health care, which issued national guidance, conditionally recommends against mammography screening for women aged 40 to 49 who are not at an increased risk.

According to guidelines updated in 2018, “If women in this age group wish to be screened, they should discuss it with their health care provider to decide whether screening is best for them.”

There is no recommendation for screening over age 74.

Seeley said it “falsely reassures” women that they won’t get breast cancer when they are in their late 40s or 70s.

“What we find … is that women who are in those two age groups — in their 40s and in their 70s — are the ones who are presenting … with a later stage diagnosis.”

Gordon said the guidelines were based on older research done 30 to 50 years ago and should take more recent data into account.

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He pointed to 2014…

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