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Number of breast screening patients increasing; still more than 15,000 women in Niagara who aren’t getting screened

Posted Oct 7th, 2010

Niagara, Ontario: The number of women getting regular breast screening continues to increase in Niagara, but there are still more than 15,000 women in the region who should be -- but aren’t -- getting screened.

“We know that regular breast screening saves lives, and our healthcare team has made tremendous progress in increasing the number of patients getting screened,” says Dr. Janice Giesbrecht, Medical Director of Oncology at Niagara Health System. “We continue to work very hard to reach women in the 50-69 years target age group to encourage them to take advantage of the services provided by the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) and get a mammogram every two years at one of our five clinics.”

Working with partner Cancer Care Ontario, Niagara Health began in 2008 to more aggressively promote breast health in the target age group. The number of breast screening patients in Niagara jumped by more than 2,000 patients in six months. Since then, the numbers continue to increase. Niagara Health saw 15,217 patients for screens over the last fiscal year (April 2009 to March 2010). Between April and June of this year, 4,567 women were screened, a 20 per cent increase over the same quarter period in 2009, during which 3,809 patients were screened.

Despite these successes, there are still 15,131 women in Niagara in the target age group who are not protecting themselves against breast cancer by getting regular mammograms (breast 
X-rays) through OBSP, says Dr. Giesbrecht, who spearheaded the opening of the first OBSP Niagara clinic and served as the Regional Medical Co-ordinator for the program’s first 10 years.

Since the OBSP began 20 years, it has provided more than 3.6 million screens to over 1.1 million women and has detected over 19,000 cancers, the majority in early cancer stages. The number of Ontario women aged 50-69 dying from breast cancer decreased 35 per cent between 1990 and 2007. This decrease, credited to improved treatments and increased participation in mammography, is a tribute to the progress made by the breast screening program.

“Routine mammograms are the most important step a woman between the ages of 50 and 69 can take to detect breast cancer early,” said Dr. Verna Mai, Provincial Lead, Public Health, Cancer Care Ontario. “Mammography continues to be the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer, but in order to save more lives from this disease, more women need to get screened.”
The five Niagara OBSP centres are located at the Douglas Memorial (Fort Erie), Greater Niagara General (Niagara Falls), Port Colborne, St. Catharines General and Welland sites. 

Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland OBSP centres offer full screening services as well as follow-up diagnostics and treatment services. Satellite OBSP clinics in Port Colborne and Fort Erie offer nurse examination and screening mammography with follow-up care provided at Greater Niagara or Welland Hospital sites. All screening centres are accredited through the Canadian Association of Radiologists.
Women aged 50 to 69 can make an appointment at their local OBSP site. A doctor’s referral is not needed.


Facts about breast cancer and breast screening

  • Breast cancer is the most common female cancer, affecting 1 in 9 women in their lifetime. It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
  • Eight of every 10 breast cancers are found in women aged 50 and over and 50 per cent of breast cancers occur in women aged 50-69.
  • In 2010, it is estimated that 8,900 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and that 2,100 will die from the disease.
  • Screening finds breast cancer earlier, when treatment has a better chance. Research shows that regular screening of women age 50-69 can reduce deaths from breast cancer by at least 30 per cent.
  • The OBSP’s target is to screen 68 per cent of Ontario women aged 50-69 by 2011/12.
  • Women who are screened at OBSP sites receive services that are accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiologists. Women also receive the added value of participating in an organized program with recruitment, results notification, automatic recall, coordinated follow-up and evaluation.
  • For every 200 women screened at the OBSP, 17 are referred for further tests, and one will have breast cancer.


Fort Erie OBSP - 905-871-4673
Niagara Falls OBSP
 - 905-358-4952
St. Catharines OBSP - 905-378-4647 ext. 46345 
Welland OBSP - 905-732-5434
Port Colborne OBSP - 905-835-5842

For more information, media may contact:

Caroline Bourque Wiley
Public Affairs Consultant
905-378-4647, ext. 43113

Niagara Health System