Monday, October 01, 2007

OCTOBER BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

EARLY DETECTION OF BREAST CANCER

CAN SAVE LIVES

VICTORIA – October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a timely reminder of the importance of regular mammography screening as a means of reducing breast cancer rates in B.C. through early detection, Premier Gordon Campbell said today at the 2007 CIBC Run for the Cure in Vancouver.

“Regular screening offers the best chance of detecting breast cancer early,” said Campbell. “B.C. has a comprehensive, provincewide breast cancer screening program. We want to raise awareness of this service and emphasize the importance of all women between the ages of 40 and 79 receiving screening for breast cancer at least every two years.”

An estimated 2,800 B.C. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone, and approximately 635 will die from the disease. One in nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Regular screening for breast cancer has been shown to reduce the number of deaths from this disease by 25 per cent.

Common signs of breast cancer include a painless lump in the breast or armpit, a change in the way the breast looks, or changes in the appearance of the nipple.

“Many British Columbians have had a loved one – a mother, sister, grandmother or friend – who has fought breast cancer,” said Health Minister George Abbott, who also participated in this year’s run. “This is a devastating disease, but survival rates are high with early detection, and we want to ensure that all B.C. women are aware that these free screening programs exist.”

The Screening Mammography Program of B.C. (SMPBC) was established in 1988 through the BC Cancer Agency to increase early detection of breast cancer and to reduce mortality rates. SMPBC provides free mammograms to women between the ages of 40 and 79 across the province. B.C. women can schedule appointments at one of 34 provincewide screening centres. Women living in areas without a screening centre can make use of the BC Cancer Agency’s mobile van, which provides breast cancer screening to an additional 100 communities at least twice a year.

Women aged 40 to 79 do not need to be referred by their doctor in order to set up an SMPBC appointment, and appointments take about 15 minutes. In 2006, SMPBC conducted 266,790 screening mammograms.

“Finding breast cancer early means more treatment options and a better chance for a cure,” said Barbara Kaminsky, CEO of the BC & Yukon division of the Canadian Cancer Society. “Fortunately, B.C. women have the lowest mortality rates for breast cancer in Canada, but we need to continue to raise awareness about the importance of screening programs and the opportunities for preventing breast cancer before it even starts.”

British Columbia is a leader in cancer prevention and treatment. In March 2007, Premier Campbell announced $2 million in funding for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation BC/Yukon to help the foundation continue raising awareness of the need for regular mammograms. In April 2006, the Province provided $4 million to the Canadian Cancer Society to endow a research chair in the primary prevention of cancer at the University of British Columbia. In July 2005, B.C. became the first province to fund the lifesaving drug Herceptin. Clinical trials of this drug show that it reduces cancer recurrence in women who have completed chemotherapy, by almost half.

Eligible British Columbians wishing to book a free mammogram can call 604 660-3639 in the Lower Mainland or toll-free 1-800-663-9203 elsewhere in B.C.

The BC HealthGuide program has information on breast cancer and routine mammography screening. The HealthGuide is available online at www.bchealthguide.org or by calling the BC NurseLine at 604 215-4700 within Greater Vancouver or toll-free at 1-866-215-4700 elsewhere in B.C.


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