Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadian women. In this section of the website, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation provides you with information about the earlier detection of breast cancer, to help inform your decision making about breast cancer screening.
The aim of earlier detection is to find smaller breast cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body. When breast cancer is detected at an earlier stage, most patients have more treatment options, less invasive forms of treatment and a better chance of surviving the disease. In this way, earlier detection has helped to improve the length and quality of life of people diagnosed with breast cancer while reducing breast cancer death rates.
Screening for breast cancer
Breast cancer screening is a test that looks for earlier signs of breast cancer, usually by mammography. The most effective way to detect breast cancer earlier is to offer regular screening to all eligible well women in the population – before signs or symptoms of the disease are noticed, including tumours that are too small to feel. This is known as a “population health” approach because it is offered on a population-wide basis and aims to improve the health of all Canadian women.
Since population-based breast cancer screening programs began in Canada in the late 1980’s, they have helped to reduce breast cancer mortality by more than 35 percent.
Organized breast cancer screening in Canada
Canada’s breast cancer screening programs are organized by the provincial and territorial governments. Referred to as organized breast cancer screening programs, they are designed to screen the majority of Canadian women (approximately 80 per cent) who are at average risk of developing breast cancer. In some places, screening services are being expanded to better meet the needs of women at higher risk of breast cancer.
Assessing breast cancer risk
The risk of developing breast cancer is not the same for all women. Depending on the degree of personal risk, there are different strategies for breast cancer screening and risk reduction. Assessing your risk is an important starting point in deciding what is right for you. Whether you are at average, high or intermediate risk will help inform your decisions about breast cancer screening and risk reduction practices.
Earlier detection saves lives
Advances in breast screening technology and quality standards have contributed to saving women’s lives, increasing breast cancer survival rates, and improving quality of life with less invasive forms of treatment.
By helping to reduce death and disability from breast cancer, screening plays an important role in women’s health and well-being.
Assessing breast cancer riskScreening technologyBreast cancer screening by mammographyBreast cancer risk factors
Reducing your risk of breast cancer