First Nations women to receive free transportation to life-saving mammogram appointments: Canadian Cancer Society aims to improve breast screening rates in Northeastern Ontario

15 January 2013

SUDBURY -

Mammograms save lives; yet for some women living in First Nations communities, the financial costs associated with getting to breast screening are prohibitive.

To help address this issue, the Canadian Cancer Society, in partnership with the Weenebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) and Health Sciences North (HSN-NECC), is providing approximately 100 women living in remote Northeastern Ontario communities — specifically, Peawanuck, Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Moosonee and Moose Factory — with air and ground transportation to mammogram appointments from January 18 to 23, 2013.

This unique, one-time initiative is made possible thanks to a special gift made by the RBC Foundation to the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Mammograms are the most reliable way to detect breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable: however, for some women living in remote areas, the cost of getting to a screening appointment can be as high as $1,500 for travel by air alone,” says Barbara Spencer, Canadian Cancer Society, Regional Director for Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario. “This initiative demonstrates the Society’s commitment to helping women get screened and how we can take action against the most common cancer among Canadian women.”

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

Cancer is a major health concern for First Nations communities. The overall rate for new cancer cases in Ontario’s First Nation communities nearly doubled between 1968 and 2001. In addition, the five-year survival rate is also much lower than the general population.

“Research shows that, on average, First Nations women are diagnosed at a later stage of breast cancer when compared with Ontario women, due in part to lower participation rates in screening,” says Caroline Lidstone-Jones, Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, Chief Quality Officer. “Early detection is key, which is why we’re so pleased to be embarking on this initiative.”

Screening will take place at the Weeneebayko General Hospital in Moose Factory through the Ontario Breast Screening Program for women between the ages of 50-74 who have never had a mammogram or who haven’t been screened in the past two years.

"This is a very welcome initiative to increase breast screening rates and improve the health of women in the communities along the James and Hudson Bay coast," says Mark Hartman, Vice President of Cancer Services and Medical Imaging at the Northeast Cancer Centre of Health Sciences North.

Women looking for free and reliable information about breast cancer or support services can call the Canadian Cancer Society’s confidential Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333 or visit cancer.ca

For more information about getting a mammogram, women can call the Ontario Breast Screening Program at 1 800 668-9304.

About breast cancer and screening

While not every lump is cancerous, your chances of getting breast cancer increase once you’re 50.

Mammograms can find a lump that’s about the size of an apple seed, while the average size lump found by women checking their breasts is the approximate size of a cherry tomato.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends the following 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.

Weeneebayko Area Health Authority is a regional, community-focused organization, committed to providing optimum health care as close to home as possible.

Health Sciences North/Horizon Santé-Nord is grateful for the ongoing support of the community through its foundations, Health Sciences North Foundation and the Northern Cancer Foundation, and the HSN Volunteer Association.

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 www.cancer.ca 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

Ontario

Phone: 416-323-7039