Ontario breast cancer screening program benefits high-risk women through early detection: report
By Mari-Len De
Oct. 2, 2013 — Women in Ontario with a higher risk of developing breast cancer are seeing their cancers caught earlier, a new report from Cancer Care Ontario’s breast cancer screening program showed.
The latest report from the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP)
includes results from the screening program for women identified as
being at high risk for breast cancer.
Since 2011, more than 2,200
women in Ontario have been screened as part of the high-risk program and 35 breast
cancers were detected (about 16 cancers per 1,000 women). In
comparison, detection rates for the general population average between
three and four cancers per 1,000 women.
"The addition of MRI to
routine mammography has proven invaluable in cancer detection for these
patients." said Dr. Derek Muradali, radiologist in chief with Cancer
"One of the cornerstones of the program centres on
the ability to navigate these women through an often complicated path
involving genetic testing, counseling, follow-up tests and biopsies.
This is the first organized high-risk screening program in the world,
and the increased cancer detection rate shows that the model is a
successful one. I foresee the program as forming the basis for
developing other high-risk screening programs internationally."
cancer is the most common cancer afflicting Canadian women, affecting
one in nine women in their lifetime. However, less than one per cent of
women in the general population are at high risk for breast cancer.
Women are considered to be at high risk for the disease if they meet
specific criteria, including being a known gene mutation carrier (e.g.,
BRCA 1 or BRCA 1).
Women confirmed to be at high risk for breast
cancer are recommended to have yearly mammograms and breast MRIs
between the ages of 30 and 69. Women at average risk for breast cancer
are recommended to have a mammogram every two years between the ages of
The OBSP was launched in 1990, and its high-risk
screening program began in July 2011. Approximately 34,000 women (aged
30 to 69 years) in Ontario are at high risk for breast cancer, according
to Cancer Care Ontario.
Genetic assessment – such as counselling
and testing, if appropriate – is available to women with a referral
from a physician, sent either directly to the genetics clinic or via the
OBSP for women aged 30 to 69.