Wellness

When should you start breast cancer screening? The surprising facts

October may be Breast Cancer Awareness month, but a recent survey of Canadian women suggests that a little more awareness about risk factors and screening may be in order.

Screening for cancer

Masterfile

October may be Breast Cancer Awareness month, but a recent survey of Canadian women suggests that a little more awareness about risk factors and screening may be in order. A Canadian Cancer Society Ipsos Reid Poll indicates that many women are confused about when they should start screening for breast cancer and what screening procedures are best.

The survey asked 1,223 Ontario women between the ages of 18 to 69 a number of questions related to their knowledge of breast cancer risk factors and screening.

Of the women surveyed, 68 percent were unaware that the recommended age to begin screening for breast cancer is between 50 and 69 (women in this age group are urged to have a mammogram every two years). In fact, 42 percent assumed that screening should begin much earlier — from between age 40 and 49. And nearly half of the women surveyed (46 percent) reported that they didn’t know that mammograms were the best way to screen for breast cancer.

“The results are alarming because there’s so much being done to raise awareness,” said Rowena Pinto, the vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Ontario division. “Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, so not only do we want to bring attention to this critical issue, we want to empower women and stop the confusion.”

But the Canadian Cancer Society also wants women to know that while 50 is the recommended age to begin regular screening, women under 50 should still regularly monitor their breasts through self-exams. Those with a family history of the disease should also make it known to their family doctor.

The organization suggests that women who want more information about breast health call the Canadian Cancer Society’s confidential Cancer Information Service (1-888-939-3333) or visit the website at cancer.ca.