New Screening Guidelines Could Be Deadly

Experts are urging women to get angry and fight against Canada’s adoption of new breast cancer screening guidelines on the federal and provincial level.

The guidelines Canada is currently considering, which were announced in December 2018 by the Canadian Task Force on Breast Screening, would only recommend mammograms every two to three years, and only for women between the ages of 50 and 69. They also wouldn’t endorse regular breast self-exams or breast exams at doctor’s appointments. Furthermore, the recommendations don’t take breast density into account.

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In a statement, the task force said it relied on “the latest, high-quality evidence about the benefits and harms of screening” and “sought and considered the input of many different stakeholders and was delighted to receive very positive comments on its guideline from many of Canada’s leading experts in cancer screening.”

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Other breast cancer experts, however, say the new guidelines don’t take into account the data that shows how important screening is. Hundreds of women could die because of this oversight.

“These guidelines, if adopted, will result in probably 400 lives lost every year to breast cancer. That’s equal to two airplane flights full of women dying from breast cancer unnecessarily every year,” said Dr. Jean Seely, head of breast imaging at the Ottawa Hospital.

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“Screening works,” she added. “We have good data in Canada that says that there’s 40 percent fewer deaths from breast cancer when women are screened.”

Dr. Paula Gordon from B.C’s Women’s Hospital Breast Program also chimes in:

“There are lives that could be saved. There are cancers that could be found earlier. So this is why we need women to hear this important information. They’ve got to get mad and contact their MPs and MPPs.”

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People like Rebecca Hollingsworth and her sister, MaryEllen, would have been negatively impacted if these had been the breast cancer screening guidelines at the time they were diagnosed. Hollingsworth was 44 years old when she found a lump during a breast self-exam. She went to her doctor for a mammogram and an ultrasound and was found to have six separate tumors growing in her breasts. Less than a week later, Hollingsworth’s 40-year-old sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

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“We actually ended up having slightly different types of breast cancer,” said Hollingsworth. “Mine was very large but not aggressive, so it was a slower-growing tumor, but hers was smaller but aggressive.”

The sisters had no family history of breast cancer, but they did have dense breast tissue. It was only regular self-exams that helped them catch the disease in time to treat it and survive.

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“These new guidelines are very alarming to me,” said Hollingsworth. She and others like her hope that Canada rejects the proposed guidelines but are also working to spread the word to other women, so that, if the guidelines are adopted, they can be wary of them.

Check out the video below to learn more:

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