Cutting through the breast cancer confusion: Canadian Cancer Society finds majority of Ontario women are still confused about breast cancer screening: Ipsos Reid poll

03 October 2012


A recent Canadian Cancer Society Ipsos Reid poll found that the majority of Ontario women are confused about what age they should start screening for breast cancer and the best way to get screened.

Of the women surveyed, nearly half (46%) didn’t know that mammograms are the best way to check for breast cancer. While 68% of women didn’t know that the recommended age to get screened is 50 to 69.

“The results are alarming because there’s so much being done to raise awareness,” says Rowena Pinto, Vice President, Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, so not only do we want to bring attention to this critical issue, we want to empower women and stop the confusion.”

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Society is urging women 50 to 69 to get a mammogram every two years. Regular mammography is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early when it’s most treatable – it can find a lump that’s about the size of an apple seed.

Interestingly, 84% of the women polled in the recommended age group for screening (50 to 69) said that nothing would prevent them from going for a mammogram.

“Knowing that fear or lack of time isn’t what’s stopping women from getting screened is great news,” says Pinto. “That’s why we’re urging women 50 to 69 to talk to their doctor or contact the Ontario Breast Screening Program to book their mammogram. If more women know when and how to get screened for breast cancer, more lives will be saved.”

Women under 50 who have concerns about their breast health should talk to their doctor.

In 2012, in Ontario, an estimated 9,100 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and an estimated 2,000 women will die from it.

Currently in Ontario, 66.8% of women are getting screened for breast cancer. The Canadian Breast Cancer Screening Initiative aims to reach 70%, and the Society hopes to exceed that goal.

Women looking for trustworthy information about breast health or other support services can call the Canadian Cancer Society’s confidential Cancer Information Service (1 888 939-3333) and speak to a trained cancer information specialist. The specialist can also provide information about the Society’s following services:

  • a volunteer-provided transportation program that helps patients get to and from their cancer-related treatment appointments when they have no way of getting there on their own
  • an over-the-phone and in-person support program that connects patients and caregivers with trained volunteers who’ve had cancer or cared for someone with cancer
  • an online community ( ) for patients, survivors and caregivers where they can share support, ideas and advice
  • a self-management program for cancer survivors and caregivers that empowers them to acquire the tools they need to make the best of their lives while living with and beyond cancer
  • referrals to cancer services in communities throughout Canada

To access information around the clock about breast cancer or the Society’s support services, visit

Other findings from the poll conducted by Ipsos Reid among Ontario women ages 18 to 69:

  • 54% believe that a mammogram is the best way to check for breast cancer
  • 34% believe checking one’s own breast is the best way to check for breast cancer
  • 42% believe that the recommended age for breast cancer screening is between the age of 40 to 49.
  • Only 6% of women say that fear prevents them from getting screened

How women can get screened in Ontario

In Ontario, there are two ways of getting a mammogram. The Society recommends that women 50 to 69 can get a referral from their healthcare professional, or call the Ontario Breast Screening Program at 1 800 668-9304 to make an appointment.

Canadian Cancer Society breast cancer screening guidelines

Whatever your age, you should know what is normal for your breasts. Many women are alive and well today because their breast cancer was detected and treated early.

It’s important to know that no screening test for cancer is 100% accurate. For example, a screening test can sometimes show cancer when there isn’t, or not show cancer when there is. But overall, screening mammography is the most reliable method of finding breast cancer.

Breast cancer screening guidelines

If you are:

You should:

40 to 49

Talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography.

50 to 69

Have a mammogram every 2 years.

70 or older

Talk to your doctor about how often you should have a mammogram.

Your doctor may also do a physical examination of your breasts (a clinical breast examination).

About the poll

This Ipsos Reid poll was conducted between August 27 and September 7, 2012, on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. For the survey, a sample of 1,223 women aged 18 to 69 in Ontario from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, respectively, of what the results would have been had the entire population of women in Ontario been polled.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Stephanie Michaelides

Communications Coordinator

Canadian Cancer Society


Phone: 416-323-7039