When Hamilton resident Jo Devlin turned 50, she received a letter in the mail from the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) inviting her to have a free mammogram every two years as part of her routine medical care.
Before booking her appointment, Devlin asked her circle of female 50-something family and friends to see if they had gone, only to discover that some had either never been screened or were overdue.
“They had received their letter from the OBSP, but instead of booking their appointments they pushed it aside,” said Devlin. Stragglers included her sister Carrie Mines and their friend Mary Luciani, both of Hamilton, so Devlin suggested they make a fun day of it by going out for lunch followed by mammograms and an afternoon of shopping.
“The first time we went, we all wore pink and took pictures,” said Luciani. “It felt like a rite of passage because we knew we were taking care of ourselves and each other.” Six years later the group has grown to also include friends Sheila Flis and Anne Kelly.
The OBSP offers free screening to women aged 50 to 74 with no signs of breast cancer. It’s recommended that women in this age group get a mammogram every two years.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Regional Cancer Program, in partnership with Cancer Care Ontario, is inviting eligible women to ‘Just Book It’ by scheduling their mammogram appointment.
This year’s Just Book It campaign focuses on women in their early 50s who are new to mammography, with the goal of increasing their screening participation in the OBSP.
The OBSP found that the 50 to 54 age group has the largest number of screen-eligible women who have not booked their mammogram appointments. Of these 54,735 eligible women in the region almost half (46.3 per cent) are overdue for their mammogram or have never been screened. The Regional Cancer Program serves Hamilton, Burlington, Niagara, Brant, Haldimand and most of Norfolk.
Luciani’s first mammogram was normal, but her second two years later showed a mass that required deeper investigation at the CIBC Breast Assessment Centre located at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre in Hamilton.
“Fortunately it was benign,” said Luciani, who had surgery to have the mass removed.
Starting in November, the CIBC Breast Assessment Centre will begin offering routine screening, once services currently offered at the Chedoke OBSP move to this new site.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women, with one in nine women expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime.
Eligible women can schedule their mammogram appointments at any OBSP site or by calling 1-800-668-9304. For a complete list of OBSP locations in the region, visit hnhbscreenforlife.ca.
The OBSP also screens women ages 30 to 69 years who are identified as being at high risk for breast cancer. Starting at age 30, women who may be at high risk (only one per cent of the population) can be referred by their health-care provider to determine their eligibility to participate in Ontario’s High Risk Breast Screening Program based on their family or medical history.
(Source: The Hamilton Spectator)