You may have a situation that you feel is unique to your own family or our own body. Or you might have concerns about your screening results. Your questions are answered here.
All women can benefit from following the five steps for reducing the risk of breast cancer: maintaining a healthy body weight, maintaining an active lifestyle, limiting alcohol (less alcohol is always better, and no alcohol is best), breastfeeding if possible and weighing the risks and benefits of hormone therapy for menopause symptoms.
If you think you may have a family history of breast cancer, speak to your health care provider about your family’s cancer history and your personal breast cancer risk. If needed, your health care provider can help you access genetic counselling and genetic testing. You can also discuss options around regular screening for early detection of breast cancer.
If you have new or existing health problems, speak with your health care provider – they can help you determine if further testing or monitoring is required.
Breast implants do not increase the risk of breast cancer, but they can make early detection more difficult. Before getting implants, you are strongly advised to have a mammogram. These baseline images can be used to compare against future mammograms with your implants.
If you have implants, talk to your doctor about your options around screening for breast cancer. While screening mammography recommendations are the same for women with breast implants, you won’t be able to make an appointment directly with the Screening Mammography Program. Women with breast implants require special positioning and additional images. Contact your health care provider to refer you for a screening mammogram at a diagnostic imaging office.
If you notice any new changes in your breast such as a lump, a difference in the texture of your breast or nipple discharge, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will help you determine if further testing is required.
If your doctor decides that you need testing, you will be booked for an appointment at a diagnostic imaging clinic. This process is different than regular breast screening, which is done for women who have no breast concerns or symptoms.
It is not unusual to get called back for additional tests - about 7% of women who have a screening mammogram will be called back for additional testing after their first mammogram or after their regular screening mammogram if changes are seen. Further tests will help determine what the changes are and if other treatment is needed. It's important to remember that about 95% of women who are called back for more tests do not have breast cancer.
The Screening Mammography Program has a Fast Track system to reduce the wait for further tests. You will be called directly by the diagnostic imaging office nearest to you to arrange an appointment and your health care provider will be informed.
Further tests may include:
- Diagnostic mammograms - further x-rays of the area of concern.
- Ultrasound - uses sound waves to produce an image of the area of concern. It does not use radiation.
- Biopsy - a sample of tissue from the area of concern.
In BC, cancer care and treatment is provided through a unique provincial program. A team of health-care professionals will be involved in your care. Your care providers will follow a set of Cancer Management Guidelines for your type of cancer. These guidelines, developed by the BC Cancer Agency, are based on solid, scientific evidence and are used by health-care professionals throughout the province. This ensures that all British Columbians have access to the same, reliable, high-quality care.
To help you navigate the treatment options for breast cancer, you will receive a breast cancer information kit. The kit includes the Breast Cancer Companion Guide, which will direct you to the information needed at each step in the pathway. Or visit www.breastcancernavigationmap.com, an online resource that will help you navigate your breast cancer journey.