Breast cancer screening in Canada: Environmental scan (2018)

Review this summary of breast cancer screening programs’ key components and strategies across Canada in 2018

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer conducts annual environmental scans on national, provincial and territorial breast cancer screening guidelines, strategies and activities. This environmental scan’s information was collected in June and July 2018, and the scan was updated in March 2019.

As of 2018, organized breast cancer screening programs are available in most provinces and territories across Canada. Where organized screening programs are not available, a primary care provider (PCP) can help patients find screening services.

Discover more about this scan’s highlights:

  • The first organized breast cancer screening program began in British Columbia in 1988. From 1990 to 2008, 11 more provinces and territories started organized breast cancer screening programs. Nunavut does not have an organized breast-cancer screening program.
  • Most provinces and territories recommend screening women at average risk with a mammogram every two years, starting at age 50 and continuing until age 75. However, some jurisdictions screen women under the age of 50 every one or two years, if they choose to get screened, have been identified as high risk or have a physician’s recommendation.
  • Mammography is commonly used as an entry-level screening test for breast cancer. Canadian women are also screened for breast cancer by using tomosynthesis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound. Using ways other than mammography to screen may depend on a woman’s risk level.
  • Most provinces and territories recruit women into their breast cancer screening program through a doctor’s referral or self-referral.
  • Six provinces and one territory have created a variety of strategies to connect with First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Strategies are also in place to help underserved populations participate.

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