Ontario Connecting More Women to Breast Cancer Screening Earlier

In Editor Choice, Provincial

Province lowering age eligibility to receive publicly funded mammograms to include those aged 40-49

The Ontario government is connecting significantly more people to breast cancer screening by lowering the eligibility age of self-referral for publicly funded mammograms through the Ontario Breast Screening Program from 50 to 40 beginning in fall 2024.

This historic expansion will help more than 305,000 people connect to important screening services to detect and treat breast cancer sooner. It is estimated that this will add an additional 130,000 mammograms that can be completed per year.

“Nearly 12,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and we know early detection and increased access to care saves lives,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “That is why our government is taking this important step today to expand the Ontario Breast Screening Program to connect more than 305,000 additional people to the services they need to ensure timely diagnosis and access to treatment as early as possible.”

Research has shown that regular screening, including mammography can help detect breast cancer before it has the chance to spread. 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. It also encourages more woman to have conversations with their health care provider about their risk factors and benefits of screening to determine if it is right for them.

“Expanding screening for breast cancer is another step we’re taking to build a more connected and convenient health care system,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “The people of this province can have confidence as our government moves ahead with our responsible and targeted approach to building a strong Ontario, that we will continue to provide better services for you and your family.”

As part of Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, the Ontario government is connecting more people to the services they need, when they need it. Over the coming months, OBSP sites will prepare for this expansion by increasing capacity and working with the Ministry of Health to develop a public reporting tool that allows people to view appointment wait times across the province.

Quick Facts

  • The OBSP performs approximately 700,000 mammograms each year in Ontario.
  • Screening is offered at 241 OBSP sites across the province. Find a screening centre near you.
  • When found early, many people survive breast cancer, with a 100 per cent, five-year relative survival rate for those diagnosed at stage 1. However, the survival rate drops to less than 30 per cent for those diagnosed at stage 4. Early detection is critical.
  • With Your Health, the Ontario government invested $18 million in community and surgical diagnostic centres last year to add over 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans and over $39 million to add 49 new MRI machines in 42 hospitals across the province.
  • Through the $61 million investment to expand the Learn and Stay grant, and with new As of Right rules, the province is historically growing the health care workforce, adding new nurses and medical laboratory technologists for years to come.

Quotes

“Supporting Ontario’s women as they continue to build our province is my top priority. We know that nothing can devastate a family or a career like a breast cancer diagnosis. That’s why we’re expanding access to care and getting women the early mammogram tests they need, so that they are empowered by better and earlier healthcare outcomes.”

– Charmaine Williams
Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunities

“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. 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.”

– Heather McPherson
President & CEO, Women’s College Hospital

“I applaud the Ontario Government for this important announcement. Ontario will now become the largest province recognising the importance of earlier breast cancer screening. By listening and acting quickly on the advice of Ontario’s breast imaging experts, the Government has made a major difference in the lives of Ontario women and their families. Screening saves lives.”

– Dr. David Jacobs
President of the Ontario Association of Radiologists

“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. 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.”

– Dr. Supriya Kulkarni
University of Toronto radiologist and breast imaging expert

“The Ontario Breast Screening Program provides access to screening for hundreds of thousands of people across the province each year. This transformational program expansion, being implemented next fall, will enable people ages 40 to 49 to access the benefits of the provincial screening program, which include result and recall letters and follow up.”

– Judy Linton
Executive Vice President Ontario Health

“As a breast cancer patient in my 40’s, I have seen firsthand the many negative effects of this disease and I am so grateful that, with this announcement, other women may not have to endure the pain of a later diagnosis as I have. Research shows that early detection of breast cancer results in less aggressive therapy and reduced mortality rates – this announcement will save lives. Thank you to the Ontario government, and Minister Jones, for prioritizing women’s health and making this important change.”

– Sherry Wilcox
Breast Cancer Patient

“I am beyond thrilled by the Ontario Government’s Announcement to lower the Breast Screening Age to 40. The expansion of including women ages 40-49 will empower women to make informed decisions about how best to protect their health. As a Breast Cancer Survivor, I am reminded of the physical, emotional, and psychological impacts of this disease daily. If you are a woman in your 40s, I strongly encourage you to get screened. Early detection saves lives.”

– Jennifer Quaid
Patient Advocate

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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