One in two Ontarians will develop a cancer during their lifetime. For one in eight women, that will be breast cancer, according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
Early detection is changing those mortality rates, and that is why local residents are invited to take part in a Mammothon — a marathon event of breast screenings — at Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston on May 15, and at Southlake Regional Health Centre’s medical arts building in Newmarket on May 16.
There has been a 44-per-cent drop in deaths from breast cancer since the late 1980s, largely due to regular screening, and improved technologies and treatment. Mammograms have been key.
“They are very important for trying to catch a cancer early,” said Lisa Rhodenizer, health promoter with the Central Regional Cancer Program. “A cancer at a smaller stage is easier to treat.”
In fact, a mammogram, which takes a low-radiation X-ray of breast tissue, can find a lump one-sixth the size of that detected through breast self-examination alone.
The challenge, said Rhodenizer, has been to persuade women to be screened regularly. Once every two years is the recommendation for women between the ages of 50 and 74.
There is some discomfort associated with mammograms, but that’s only one reason why women may put off being screened, she said.
“Some women are scared of knowing, scared of finding out,” said Rhodenizer. “Lack of transportation can be a barrier. The regular screening hours don’t fit into their schedule. Some may not know the screening guidelines, or where and when to go.”
And for newcomers to Canada, mammograms may not have been part of their regular health care programs in their home countries.
“In some cultures, women don’t put themselves first,” Rhodenizer said.
Part of the outreach involves pointing out women’s health matters — that when women are healthy, the family is healthy.
Hence the Mammothon, which aims to screen as many women between the ages of 50 and 74 as possible, including women who are overdue for a screening or have never have a mammogram.
It is an idea that had its start in London, Ont., with a 50 Over 50 program — setting the target of screening 50 women over the age of 50 who had never had a mammogram before.
The Mammothon is now part of the Central Region Cancer Program, offering free screening for women between the ages of 50 and 74 who are residents of Ontario, have no history of breast cancer and no breast implants, and who have never had a mammogram or are overdue. No doctor’s referral is required.
Twenty-three clinic sites in Toronto and York Region are participating this year between May 14 and 18.
Rhodenizer recommends calling to book an appointment, although some of the locations accommodate walk-ins.
The information about the Mammothon and breast cancer screening has been translated into seven languages, and partner groups are extending the invitation to their communities.
WHAT: Marathon event of breast screenings
WHO: For women between ages 50 and 74, who are Ontario residents, have no history of breast cancer and no breast implants, and who have never had a mammogram or are overdue for one
WHEN: May 15 at Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston, and May 16 at Southlake Regional Health Centre’s medical arts building
For more information or to book an appointment, the Southlake clinic can be reached at 905-895-4521 ext. 6228.
Can't make the Mammothon? Women can call the Ontario Breast Screening Program at 1-800-668-9304 to book an appointment at their convenience.