Starting in fall 2024, Ontario will increase breast cancer screening by lowering the age of self-referral for publicly funded mammograms through the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) from 50 years of age to 40.

The OBSP screens two different groups of people: those at average risk and those at high risk.

This announcement changes screening recommendations for those at average risk. As of fall 2024, a mammogram will be available very two years for all eligible women, transgender, non-binary and two-spirit Ontarians between the ages of 40 and 74.

Breast Cancer Most Common Cancer For Women

“Breast cancer continues to be the most common cancer among women in Canada. Although we have made great strides in improving survival rates through regular screening and early detection, lowering the self-referral age to 40 will play a critical role in increasing breast cancer survivorship for more women in Ontario” said Heather McPherson, President & CEO, Women’s College Hospital. “With research indicating that Black and Indigenous women are often diagnosed with more aggressive cancers at a younger age, this will also help reduce the disparities in health outcomes for equity deserving communities – ensuring that no woman is left behind.”

Individuals will be able to self-refer, making this screening very accessible for those Ontarians who do not have a family physician.

Ontarians who are at high risk for breast cancer can already access regular mammograms and breast MRI’s between the ages of 30 to 69.

This historic expansion will help more than 305,000 people connect to important screening services to detect and treat breast cancer sooner.

It appears that numerous Canadian provinces are planning to follow May’s recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force which suggests that regular screenings in the U.S. should start at 40 instead of 50.

When found early, many people survive breast cancer, however, the survival rate drops to less than 30 per cent for those diagnosed at stage 4. Early detection is critical. Research has shown that regular screenings, including mammography can help detect breast cancer before it has the chance to spread.

Find a Screening Centre Near You

By lowering the age of self-referral for mammograms, eligible Ontarians aged 40-49 who don’t have a primary care provider will be able to connect to screening more easily by self-referring through any OBSP site.

Find a screening centre near you to book your mammogram.

The OBSP encourages more women to have conversations with their health care providers about their risk factors and benefits of screening to determine if it is right for them.

“It is truly a momentous occasion as the Ontario Government takes a significant step forward in health care by approving breast cancer screening for women between the ages of 40-49 promoting health equity, supporting early detection, and prioritising the well-being of women”, said Dr. Supriya Kulkarni, University of Toronto radiologist and breast imaging expert. “Ontario will now be the largest province in Canada recognising the importance of earlier breast cancer screening. The benefits of this approval extend beyond medical statistics. It signifies a commitment to women’s health and their right to accessible and timely health care.”

The Health Insider applauds this life-saving initiative and looks forward to other provinces following suit. Stay tuned as we continue to report on this important development.

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