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89% of Canadians want earlier screening for breast cancer, survey says. It 'could be lifesaving'

Breast cancer affects approximately one in eight women in Canada.

Woman holding pink ribbon on white background, top view with space for text. Breast cancer awareness concept
On Thursday, Breast Cancer Canada released information about routine screening and the need for lived and diverse experiences in research. (Photo via Getty Images)

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Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in Canada, affecting approximately one in eight women.

Ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Canada released new information on Thursday that highlights breast cancer screening and the need for lived and diverse experiences in research.

The survey, which was conducted among members of the Angus Reid Forum, concluded there's a national demand to lower the age for routine breast cancer screening. The data also identified the need for more race-based data and willingness of Canadians to share their experience with breast cancer to help improve new patient outcomes.

Read on learn more about the survey's findings, as well as experiences and opinions from a breast cancer survivor.


Key breast cancer survey findings

  • Lowering the screening age: 89 per cent of Canadians believe routine screening for breast cancer should begin before age 50.

  • Gathering race-based data: 79 per cent of Canadians think Canada should prioritize gathering race-based data on cancer screening rates to address a lack of information on racial disparities.

    • As of now, Canada does not routinely track race-based data around breast cancer screening rates.

  • Canadians' desire to help future patients: 80 per cent of Canadians hope their health experiences can inform and support others' health challenges.

  • PROgress Tracker: BCC is encouraging anyone who's had any stage of breast cancer to register in PROgress Tracker. This way, experiences and information needed to advance breast cancer treatment and management can be used and taken seriously.

    • According to BCC, this is the first time all breast cancer patients will have the opportunity to inform research that will be directly impacting future patients.

Side View Of Multi-ethnic Women Group With Pink Ribbons. Breast Cancer Awareness And Support Concept.
Breast cancer affects approximately one in eight women in Canada. (Photo via Getty Images)

While BCC expected that people would want to lower the routine screening age in Canada, they were "surprised" the number was as high as it was.

"We wanted to know what the general public in Canada wanted regarding screening and detection," Kimberly Carson, CEO of BCC, told Yahoo Canada.

"We were a little surprised to learn that 89 per cent wanted the screening age lowered, so this information helps us determine future research and areas of opportunity."

Charlene Newland was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s. Now, she's advocating for change and research. (Photo courtesy of Breast Cancer Canada and Charlene Newland).
Charlene Newland was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s. Now, she's advocating for change and research. (Photo courtesy of Breast Cancer Canada and Charlene Newland).

'People don't talk about breast cancer'

Charlene Newland was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after having a baby, at age 34. At the time, Newland was shocked breast cancer was even a possibility due to her age and having no family history with the condition.

Newland's journey began when she felt a lump in her breast. She visited her doctor who thought it could be fibroids or a cyst. As such, Newland was shocked when she found out it was cancer.

"I blanked. I didn't really process or hear my doctor telling me the news. After I remember having all these emotions and when I saw my kids I realized I couldn't tell anybody about it," Newland told Yahoo Canada.

"This is something I preach now. As women of colour or women in general, we need to be proactive."Charlene Newland

Newland initially kept her breast cancer to herself out of "a sense of shame." She didn't want people to worry or feel sorry for her.

Eventually she told her husband and the rest of her family and friends, but looking back, Newland wondered what would have happened if she reached out for help.

"Ten years later, I realized that many women of colour like me have also gone through the same struggle. And it's interesting that people don't talk about breast cancer," Newland said.

"This is something I preach now. As women of colour or women in general, we need to be proactive."

After a partial mastectomy, rounds of chemo and radiation, and having 19 lymph nodes removed, Newland is now cancer free. However, her work with breast cancer is far from over.

Today, as a Black woman, Newland is an advocate for addressing racial disparities in the healthcare system through collecting race-based data and lowering the screening age, so cases like hers can be detected earlier.

"We actually don't know much about Black women's health in Canada, and then also breast cancer in younger people. So we need to do something about it," Newland said.

Signing up for PROgress Tracker is one way to help Newman and BCC understand different ages and races in order to further breast cancer research.

"Lend a voice, become an advocate, and we can make a real difference."Kimberly Carson


Looking to the future

Like Newland, Carson and BCC are advocates for breast cancer research and development.

And in Carson's eyes, both the survey and PROgress Tracker are "groundbreaking."

"[This information] really could be lifesaving. And it helps us know how to develop new screening techniques and where funding should go."

Over time, research developments and the work BCC contributes has helped give breast cancer patients a survival rate of over 80 per cent. However, Carson says the work is far from over.

"We're making huge strides in breast cancer research, but there's more to be done and we need everyone's help. Lend a voice, become an advocate — and we can make a real difference."

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