Ontario is investing an additional $15M over three years to expand the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) to include women at high risk for breast cancer aged 30 to 69. The decision to expand the program to women at high risk for breast cancer is based on clinical evidence, reviews, and on recommendations from Cancer Care Ontario.
The expanded OBSP program was launched in July 2011 at select sites across the province. These sites will act as High Risk Screening Centres that will provide breast MRI, and mammography screening, and diagnostic services. This means that more cancers will be detected at earlier stages resulting in less invasive treatments, and more importantly, greater survival rates.
Women aged 30 to 69 will be considered high risk if they have any of the following risk factors :
- genetic testing confirming that they have a mutation (such as BRCA1, BRCA 2 or TP53) that increases their risk for breast cancer
- a parent, sibling or child with genetic testing confirming a mutation that increases their risk for breast cancer
- a family history that indicates a hereditary breast cancer syndrome and a 25 per cent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer confirmed through a genetic assessment
- radiation therapy to the chest before 30 years of age and more than eight years ago as treatment for another cancer or condition.
How can women access the new services?
Women can go first to their family doctor or nurse practitioner to discuss their risk profile for breast cancer and determine the appropriate screening for them. If a woman has already been identified as being at high risk for breast cancer, her family doctor or nurse practitioner will refer her directly to the OBSP to be booked for breast MRI and mammography.
Otherwise, if a woman is identified by her family doctor or nurse practitioner as having a family history that may indicate a higher risk for breast cancer, they will refer her to the OBSP to be booked for genetic assessment and testing. If the genetic assessment or testing shows that the woman carries a genetic mutation or has a 25 per cent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, she will be booked for breast MRI and mammography through the OBSP.
Why is it important to screen women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer?
- The risk of developing breast cancer is two to five times higher for women at high risk than in the general population.
- Women at high risk develop breast cancer at a younger age than the general population
- Breast cancer is more aggressive in younger women who are at high risk, so it is important that it is identified early