Two Wins for Cancer Screening in Canada

Cancer Can’t Wait, and two provincial governments in Canada have taken steps to implement early screening.

In late October, Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister Sylvia Jones announced that starting in fall 2024,  women will be able to self-refer for a mammogram every two years, and regular breast cancer screenings will begin at age 40. This screening program is open to women, non-binary, trans, and two-spirit people between the ages of 40 and 74.  The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network and Dense Breasts Canada have been advocating for this for a considerable amount of time. This change will help with early detection, with an additional 130,000 mammograms a year.

We are encouraged that the people of Ontario to have access to this key diagnostic tool at what is now being recognized as the most appropriate age to begin screening. Approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Ontario each year. Our hope is that with this announcement, many of the individuals who will be diagnosed will have an earlier diagnosis and therefore a greater chance of having a highly treatable cancer versus a late-stage diagnosis.

This month in Alberta, Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange announced expanded lung cancer screening across the province. Albertans aged 50 to 74 who currently smoke or are former smokers, can now contact the Alberta Lung Cancer Screening Program to enlist. LaGrange says the program has 3,000 spaces up to March 2024. The Canadian Cancer Society reported 2,700 cases of lung cancer in Alberta 2022, and 1,730 deaths in the same year.

Alberta joins only three other provinces in implementing lung cancer screening programs. Ontario and BC have programs on the go, with Quebec implementing a pilot program, according to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. We urge Alberta to continue this work and expand the program so that it can join British Columbia and Ontario in creating lung cancer screening programs to detect the condition early to increase survivability.

All governments, must take steps to invest in early screening programs.. While we praise these steps from both Ontario and Alberta, there is always room for improvement. Alberta must continue to expand its program, and Ontario must consider raising the maximum screening age as well. In addition, all provinces must follow the lead of these two if they haven’t already so that people across the country can get screened, and catch cancer early.

Ontario and Alberta have realized that Cancer Can’t Wait. We hope the rest of the country realizes this as well.