By Aisha Lofters
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Canada, making up an estimated 25 per cent of all new cancer cases among women each year. Fortunately, the five-year survival rate is high (approximately 90 per cent), due to improvements in treatment but also due in large part to early detection with breast cancer screening (mammography). Current national and provincial guidelines recommend regular screening with mammography for women aged 50-74 years. Women aged 40-49 years and aged 75 years and above may wish to be screened based on their preferences or risk factors, and providers should engage in shared decision-making to support them to make the decision. Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer may also qualify for earlier screening, more frequent screening or screening with different tests (e.g. MRI).
Despite the successes of breast cancer screening, the benefits are not being reaped equitably in our society. We know that many of the people who experience systemic marginalization are also less likely to be screened for breast cancer, such as transmasculine and non-binary people, women who are foreign-born and/or living with low income, and some racialized women. More must be done at the system level to ensure that there is equity in access to screening, including providing accessible education and information about screening, community outreach and engagement, and low-barrier opportunities for screening.
At the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers, we have been working to address breast cancer screening inequities. Working with a multidisciplinary team of support staff, community partners and clinicians, we created the Every Breast Counts resource hub, held a virtual event in February 2022, which included a panel discussion on screening, and on October 27, are hosting a breast and cervical screening event for Black women. Every person in Canada at risk of breast cancer deserves every chance at early detection.