Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we are encouraging women to talk to their healthcare providers about getting screened with a mammogram.


About Mammograms

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast. Screening mammography can find breast cancers when they are small, less likely to have spread and more likely to be treated successfully.

How it Works

A registered medical radiation technologist specializing in mammography will place your breast on a special X-ray machine. A plastic plate will press down on your breast and hold it in place for a few seconds. You will feel some pressure on your breast during the X-ray. This pressure does not harm your breast tissue.

Four images are taken, two of each breast. The technologist will check the images to make sure they are of good quality for the radiologist to read. If necessary the technologist will take additional pictures.

Preparing for an appointment

A two-piece outfit is recommended because you will need to remove your top and bra. Do not apply deodorant, antiperspirants, body lotions, or talcum powders. Metals in these products can show up on the X-ray picture.

Getting the Results

If your screening result is normal, you will get a letter in the mail telling you that your results are normal. The Ontario Breast Screening Program site will also send the results to your healthcare provider, if you have one.

If you have an abnormal mammogram result, your site will notify you and your healthcare provider, and schedule a timely follow-up appointment for you. If you do not have a healthcare provider you will be provided with a doctor who will follow up with you until a diagnosis is made.

High Risk Ontario Breast Screening Program

If you have an abnormal high risk screening result, your High Risk site will notify you and your healthcare provider, and schedule a timely follow-up appointment for you.

How to get Screened

As of April 2017, we provide services through 214 breast screening sites, including two mobile coaches. All sites are accredited by the Canadian Association of Radiologists Mammography Accreditation Program.

Eligible women ages 50 to 74 years can call the nearest screening site to make an appointment. A doctor’s referral is not needed. If you live in the North West or Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant regions you may be eligible for screening in one of our mobile screening coaches.

High Risk Screening

If you think you may be at high risk for breast cancer, talk to your doctor about whether you are eligible for referral to the High Risk Ontario Breast Screening Program based on your family or medical history. 

See the Screening Guidelines and Program Eligibility for more information.

Breast Awareness

All women – regardless of age or risk factors, should be breast aware. This means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel so you can tell if there are any changes, for example:

  • a new lump or dimpling
  • changes in the nipple or fluid leaking from the nipple
  • new skin changes or redness that does not go away

In most cases, changes in the breast are not signs of cancer but to be sure you should have them checked by your healthcare provider. This is a good time to talk with your healthcare provider about regular breast cancer screening, as well as what you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer.

5 things you may not know about breast cancer

  1. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Ontario women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.5 Breast cancer happens mostly in women ages 50 to 74 (61% of cases).6,7 Regular breast cancer screening is important because it can find cancer early, when it may be smaller and easier to treat.
  2. Limiting alcohol can reduce your risk. A healthy lifestyle, including limiting alcohol, can reduce your risk of breast cancer. Other factors that may lower a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer are not smoking or using tobacco products, having a healthy body weight and being physically fit.
  3. Breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates out of all of the cancers in Ontario.8 Studies show that regular mammograms lower the risk of dying from breast cancer in women ages 50 to 74.9 Deaths from breast cancer in the Ontario population went down by about 42% for women ages 50 to 74 from 1990 to 2012.10 This decrease in deaths is probably due to breast cancer treatment getting better and also more women getting screened with mammograms.11
  4. More than 35,000 breast cancers have been found by the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) through mammography, most of which were in early stages. As of July 2016, over 1.7 million women ages 50 to 74 had a mammogram through the OBSP, resulting in more than 6.8 million mammograms completed.12 The OBSP recommends that most women ages 50 to 74 be screened every two years with mammography. Regular screening reduces the chance of missing a breast cancer.
  5. Changes in the breast are not always signs of cancer. All women – regardless of age or risk factors – should be breast aware. This means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel so you can tell if there are changes.



Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among Ontario women. As women get older, their chance of getting breast cancer increases.

  • It is estimated that about 10,100 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 1,900 women will die of the disease in 2017.1
  • Breast cancer happens mostly in women ages 50 to 74 (61% of cases).2,3

Breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates out of all the cancers in Ontario. Regular breast cancer screening is important because it can find cancer early, when it may be smaller and easier to treat. Among women who had a mammogram through the Ontario Breast Screening Program in 2013, retention (women receiving their next scheduled screening on time) was highest in those ages 65 to 69 (84%) and lowest in those ages 50 to 54 (77%).4 A similar pattern was seen in previous years.

About the Ontario Breast Screening Program

The Ontario Breast Screening Program is a province-wide organized screening program that aims to reduce breast cancer mortality in Ontario.

It provides high-quality breast screening throughout Ontario to two groups of women, and recommends that:

  • Most women ages 50 to 74 be screened every two years with mammography.
  • Women ages 30 to 69 who are confirmed to be at high risk of getting breast cancer be screened once a year with a mammogram and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (or, if MRI is not medically appropriate, screening breast ultrasound).

Patient and Family Stories

As we develop province-wide plans, policies and practices, we always remember that at the heart of every cancer story is an individual. Some of their stories have been shared in the Ontario Cancer Plan. We encourage you to explore the stories of Joanne, Patricia and Gail, three breast cancer patients who, along with all those diagnosed with breast cancer, motivate and inspire everything we do.

Breast Screening Resources

Resources for Public

Don’t have a family doctor? We can help you find one.

Breast Cancer Facts

Mammogram Information



  1. Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2017. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2017.
  2. Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario Cancer Statistics 2016. Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario; 2016.
  3. Surveillance, Analytics and Informatics, 2016. [Unpublished internal document], Cancer Care Ontario.
  4. Cancer Quality Council of Ontario. Cancer System Quality Index 2017. Toronto, ON: Cancer Quality Council of Ontario.
  5. Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario Cancer Statistics 2016. Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario; 2016.
  6. Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario Cancer Statistics 2016. Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario; 2016.
  7. Surveillance, Analytics and Informatics, 2016. [Unpublished internal document], Cancer Care Ontario.
  8. Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario Cancer Statistics 2016. Toronto, ON: Cancer Care Ontario; 2016; Cancer Quality Council of Ontario. Cancer System Quality Index 2017. Toronto, ON: Cancer Quality Council of Ontario.
  9. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. Recommendations on screening for breast cancer in average risk women aged 40-74 years. CMAJ. 2011; 183(17):1991-2001.
  10. Estimates provided by Cancer Care Ontario, Prevention and Cancer Control (Prevention and Surveillance). Data source Ontario Cancer Registry, 2015.
  11. Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) Information for Healthcare Providers. Toronto, ON; 2015 Oct.
  12. Analytics, Cancer Screening, Prevention and Cancer Control. 2016 August 17. [Unpublished internal document], Cancer Care Ontario.