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Just book it: Breast cancer screening can save your life

Posted Oct 20th, 2023

Just book it: Breast cancer screening can save your life

An estimated 12,000 women in Ontario will get breast cancer this year and one in eight will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the most common type of cancer for women in Ontario. But it also has one of the highest survival rates of all cancers with early detection.

Getting regular mammograms can increase the odds of finding cancer when it is smaller and easier to treat, and before it spreads to other parts of the body. When caught early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is nearly 100 per cent, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

“The two most important factors when it comes to cancer is prevention and early detection,” says Dr. Anthony Bonifacio, Radiologist and Breast Imaging Lead at Niagara Health. “Women aged 50-74 are encouraged to be screened for breast cancer every two years with mammography. If there's a problem, it will be detected very early and treated appropriately.”

As for the prevention of cancer, Dr. Bonifacio says lifestyle choices play an important role.

“There is plenty of literature that demonstrates the association between increased cancer risk and alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables.”

In Ontario, 83 per cent of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50. Having a mother, sister, or daughter with breast cancer nearly doubles a woman's risk. However, only five to 10 per cent of women with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Niagara Health is urging any woman, Two-Spirit, trans and non-binary person eligible for breast screening to schedule an appointment.

Who Should Get Screened:

If you are age 50 to 74, the Ontario Breast Screening Program recommends that most people in your age group get screened every two years with mammography. You do not need a doctor’s referral.

If you are age 30 to 69 and meet the eligibility criteria for the High-Risk Ontario Breast Screening Program, the program recommends that you get screened every year with both mammography and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or screening breast ultrasound if MRI is not medically appropriate.

Niagara Health has three full-service Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) Centres and Assessment Clinics at the Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland hospitals. In addition, the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Cancer Care Program provides mobile cancer screening services in Fort Erie and Port Colborne.

“Something that happened quite recently in the Niagara region is the expansion of the Mobile Cancer Screening Coach program,” says Dr. Bonifacio.

The Coach offers free, regular, state-of-the-art breast, cervical and colon cancer screening services in St. Catharines, Fort Erie and Port Colborne.

“It is a very important service because it reaches those who may face some barriers, such as access to transportation to the larger centres, or those who may have a cultural or language barrier,” he explains.

Other barriers could include not having a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Residents can book an appointment for the Mobile Cancer Screening Coach by calling 905-975-4467 or 1-855-338-3131. 

To learn more about breast screening at Niagara Health and to schedule an appointment, visit

OBSP Centres and Assessment Clinics at Niagara Health sites:

Niagara Falls OBSP Centre - Niagara Falls hospital

St. Catharines OBSP Centre - St. Catharines hospital
905-378-4647 Ext 46345

Welland OBSP Centre - Welland hospital

Niagara Health System