Taking proactive steps like cancer screening takes a lot of courage, so it’s understandable if you feel scared or worried. It is important to remember that abnormal results don’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Abnormal test results can often be the result of benign fluid-filled sacs called cysts, or calcium deposits. If cancer is detected, finding it early means that you will have more treatment options that may be more effective than catching it at a later stage.
If your test results show an abnormality you will be called in for follow up tests. Follow up tests could include a:
Other types of testing may be required depending on the initial results from your mammogram. Your doctor or OBSP staff will let you know what further testing is necessary.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a test that takes a very detailed picture of your breast and can help doctors find signs of breast cancer in people at high risk. An MRI takes multiple images of your breast tissue by using a powerful magnetic field, radio pulses and a computer. An MRI does not use radiation. It can take about 30 45 minutes to do, and is often done on women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
We know that screening can find cancer early when treatment is more effective, and therefore reduce the number of deaths due to breast cancer. But mammograms aren’t perfect. Knowing what risks are involved in getting a mammogram will help you make the right screening decisions for you. These risks include:
Yes. Even if you don’t have an OHIP card, you can still be screened through the OBSP. When you arrive at the screening site, the staff will ask you to provide:
If you are not eligible for OHIP because you are new to the province, or you’re returning to the province and you’re in your three-month waiting period, you can still be screened through the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP)
For a list of all OBSP sites in Ontario, click here.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that every woman over 50 should be screened for breast cancer with a mammogram every two years. While it’s important to take care of your health in the ways that feel good for you, including holistic, naturopathic, herbal or homeopathic medicines, it is still important to get screened.
It is not necessary to remove nipple rings as long as they do not interfere with viewing your breasts.
Even if your breasts are small, you can still get a mammogram.
Yes, you can and if you’re over 50, it is recommended that you do. The OBSP program does not provide screening for women who have breast implants. Your family doctor can refer you for screening instead. When getting a mammogram, the implant is moved out of the way and breast tissue is pulled forward and into view. Sometimes, more than four pictures are taken to make sure as much of the breast tissue is examined as possible. Studies show that women with breast implants are diagnosed with breast cancer at a similar stage and have a similar prognosis as women who do not have breast implants.
Knowing your breasts is one of the most important parts of having healthy breasts. Getting to know what’s normal for you and contacting your doctor about changes, as well as getting regular mammograms, are key to early detection.
The best way to learn your breasts is by looking and feeling them. It is important to look and touch the whole area of your breast tissue up to the collarbone, under the armpits and including the nipples.
Lumpy and tender breasts are a normal part of a hormonal cycle. Often times, breasts can feel this way right before your period. Also, breast tissue changes with age, and so may look and feel different over time. If you notice any changes, especially ones that are possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer, then talk to your doctor.
A clinical breast exam (CBE) is a thorough examination of the breast by a trained healthcare professional to check for abnormalities. If the healthcare provider is male, you may request a female staff person to sit in on the session.
The Canadian Cancer Society no longer promotes CBE as a method of screening. However, some healthcare professionals will continue to use it as part of an overall breast health plan.
The best available scientific evidence shows us that mammography is most effective screening test and has been proven to reduce breast cancer deaths.
There is usually no special preparation for a CBE. The woman removes her clothing from the waist up. A sheet or gown covers her while she is on the examination table.
First, the healthcare professional looks at the breasts. This should be done with the person sitting, and then when she is lying down. The healthcare professional looks for:
Secondly, the healthcare professional feels (palpates) the breast and the nipple. This is done with you lying down, which flattens the breast tissue over the chest wall. The entire breast area is carefully examined using the fingers. The breast extends from the middle of the chest, into the armpit and up towards the collarbone. The entire area should be examined.
The healthcare professional feels for:
There is no evidence that anti-perspirants, bras, breast implants or abortion increase rates of breast cancer. Learn more about some other cancer myths and controversies.
There is no evidence to suggest that wearing a binder will increase your risk of breast cancer. However, there are other risks to binder usage that you should be aware of, such as skin irritation, difficulty breathing, and lymphatic flow issues if binders are worn too tightly. It’s helpful to take your binder off when you sleep so that your chest has some room to breathe.
For more information contact our Cancer Information Service at
1 888 939 3939