Regional patients benefit from new high risk breast screening program

Lori Beth Vickery is among one of the first patients to participate in the new high risk breast screening program at Kitchener’s Grand River Hospital (GRH).

In July 2011, the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) expanded to include women who are deemed to be at high risk for breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 69 years. Nineteen high risk screening centres, including GRH, now facilitate genetic assessment for women (if appropriate), screening mammography and breast MRI for women whose high risk status has been confirmed.

Lori Beth, a 50 year old resident of Kitchener, has been touched by cancer many times over the past few years.

“After being faced with a number of breast cancer diagnoses in my family, my sister and I participated in the high risk screening program. It was through this screening process I learned I had a genetic mutation and was at high risk for breast cancer,” said Lori Beth.

Women who think they may be at high risk for breast cancer should speak with their family doctor about a referral to the OBSP, or call ServiceOntario at 1-866-532-3161 for more information. Women without a regular healthcare provider should contact Health Care Connect at 1-800-445-1822 to be connected with one.

“Until the launch of the high risk breast cancer screening program at Grand River Hospital, I would have had to travel to Toronto to participate in the program. Staying close to home was very comforting for me,” said Lori Beth.

In 2011, it is estimated that 9,000 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and that 1,950 will die from the disease. Studies have shown that regular mammograms for women aged 50 to 74 years reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in females,” said Dr. Craig McFadyen, regional vice president for Cancer Care Ontario and vice president of cancer services at GRH. “It is vital for women aged 50 to 74 years old to get regular mammograms because screening finds breast cancer earlier, when there are more treatment options and an improved chance of survival.”

As of 2009, 66 per cent of women aged 50 to 69 years in Waterloo Wellington region had been screened for breast cancer with mammography in the previous two years. This means there are still many women who would benefit from regular screening.

“The breast cancer death rate for Ontario women has decreased by 24 per cent, between 1990 and 2008 for women aged 50 to 74 years,” said Dr. McFadyen. “This is credited both to improved treatments and more women having regular mammograms.”

Women aged 50 to 74 years who are not at high risk for breast cancer can call any OBSP location to book a screening appointment since a referral from a family doctor is not needed. Area OBSP screening sites are located in Cambridge, Fergus, Guelph and Kitchener. To find an OBSP site near you, call 1-800-668-9304 or visit

“My advice to any women who find themselves at high risk for breast cancer is to talk to your family doctor about a referral to the high risk breast screening program. Not only will it give you peace of mind, it could save your life too,” said Lori Beth.