CCSN Outraged by Canadian Task Force Recommendations on Breast Screening

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) was disappointed and outraged by the recent recommendation from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to not lower the age of recommended breast screening to 40. Despite calls from multiple cancer groups, oncologists, and radiologists, the current guidelines require regular mammography for breast cancer to begin at 50 for those at average risk of developing the condition. As of today, those guidelines, as well as ones saying that the maximum age for routine screening is capped at 75 years of age, remain in place.

In 2024, it is estimated that 30,500 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,500 will die from it. If we were to start screening at age 40 this could equate to 400 to 600 avoidable late diagnosis each year since 13.5 per cent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women aged 40-49. Lowering the recommended age of screening has been shown to diagnose more breast cancers at earlier stages. This means that the cancer is more manageable, less taxing to the patient’s health, and directly results in healthcare savings.

Breast cancer, just like all cancers, is also a disease of aging. Nearly 20 per cent of women diagnosed are over the age of 75. A significant portion of the population are therefore being missed by the current guidelines.

Despite the ruling, many provinces have lowered the breast screening age to 40. British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon already start screening at that age, while Ontario is set to make the change in the fall of 2024. CCSN has written letters congratulating these provinces on their work to support the health of their residents. CCSN strongly encourages all other provinces to follow suit and lower their screening age to 40 and allow for self-referral for those over 75 years of age. This will allow people’s needs to be put first and prevent fewer late-stage diagnoses and decreased mortality from breast cancer.