5 Things You May Not Know About Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, in partnership with the South West Regional Cancer Program, is encouraging women to talk with their healthcare providers about getting screened regularly with a mammogram. Think you have all the facts on breast cancer? Here are five things you may not know.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In Ontario, breast cancer happens mostly in women ages 50 to 74 (61 percent of cases). Regular breast cancer screening is important because it can find cancer early when it may be smaller and easier to treat.

Limiting alcohol can reduce your risk. A healthy lifestyle, including limiting alcohol, can reduce your risk of breast cancer.  Other factors that may lower a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer are not smoking or using tobacco products, having a healthy body weight, and being physically fit.

Breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates out of all of the cancers in Ontario. Studies show that regular mammograms (and proper follow up testing for abnormal results) lower the risk of dying from breast cancer in women ages 50 to 74. Deaths from breast cancer in the Ontario population went down by about 47 percent in women ages 50 to 74 from 1990 to 2013. This decrease in deaths is probably due to improvements in breast cancer treatment and more women getting screened.

Between 1990 and 2017, more than 39,000 breast cancers have been found by the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) through mammography, most of which were in early stages. From the start of the program in 1990 to July 2017, over 1.9 million women ages 50 to 74 had a mammogram through the OBSP, resulting in more than 7.4 million mammograms completed. The OBSP recommends that most women ages 50 to 74 get screened every two years with mammography. Eligible women can make their own appointments or be referred for screening by a healthcare provider.

Changes in the breast are not always signs of cancer. All women – regardless of age or risk factors – should be breast aware. This means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel so you can tell if there are changes.

For more information about breast cancer screening, visit www.cancercareontario.ca/bcam.