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Breast Cancer Screening

British Columbia Specific Information

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in British Columbia. Breast cancer can occur in men as well, but it is not as common. Tests and treatments for breast cancer vary from person to person, and are based on individual circumstances. Certain factors such as your age, family history, or a previous breast cancer diagnosis may increase your risk of developing breast cancer. For information about your specific risk factors, speak with your health care provider.

A number of screening methods, including mammograms in women, can help find and diagnose breast cancer. The decision to have a mammogram or use any other screening method may be a difficult decision for some women. While screening for breast cancer is often recommended, it is not mandatory. Speak with your health care provider for information regarding how to get screened, the facts and myths about screening tests, how to maintain your breast health, and to get help making an informed decision.

For more information about breast cancer and breast cancer screening, visit:

If you have questions about breast cancer or medications, speak with your health care provider or call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered nurse or pharmacist. Our nurses are available anytime, every day of the year, and our pharmacists are available every night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Overview

Experts agree that mammograms are the best screening test for people at average risk of breast cancer. Guidelines for when to start having mammograms and how often to have them vary from province to province.

You should discuss the benefits and harms of mammograms with your doctor. He or she can help you decide when to start and how often to have a mammogram. Your doctor can help you find a breast cancer screening program in your area.

For people who are at average risk for breast cancer, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends the following guidelines.footnote 1

  • Ages 40 to 49: Regular mammograms are not recommended.
  • Ages 50 to 74: Regular mammograms (every 2 to 3 years) are recommended.
  • Age 75 and older: You may want to talk to your doctor about whether you need breast cancer screening.

The screening tests for breast cancer include:

Mammogram.

This is an X-ray of the breast that can often find tumours that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. Most of the ones done today are digital mammograms. They record images of the breast in an electronic file.

3-D mammogram (digital breast tomosynthesis).

This test uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the breast. This test may be used alone or with a digital mammogram.

Clinical breast examination (CBE).

During this test, your doctor will carefully feel your breasts and under your arms to check for lumps or other unusual changes. Talk to your doctor about whether to have this test.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the breast.

An MRI may be used as a screening test for women who have a high risk of breast cancer. This includes women who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and/or have a strong family history of breast cancer. An MRI may also be useful for women who have breast implants or whose breast tissue is very dense.

References

Citations

  1. Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2018). Recommendations on screening for breast cancer in women aged 40–74 years who are not at increased risk for breast cancer. CMAJ, 190(49): E1441–E1451. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.180463. Accessed December 20, 2018.

Credits

Current as of:
April 29, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Douglas A. Stewart MD - Medical Oncology