Today, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre’s (TBRHSC) staff recognized the importance of raising awareness and education about breast and cervical cancer screening by wearing pink to work. October is traditionally Breast Cancer Awareness Month and host to Cervical Cancer Awareness Week. This year, TBRHSC is combining them into Women’s Health Awareness Month.
Tarja Heiskanen, Manager of Screening and Assessment Services, says “both breast and cervical cancer screening are important to promote, so we thought we would combine both campaigns and promote both screening tests throughout the entire month of October.” Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women, affecting 1 in 9 in their lifetime. In 2014, an estimated 9,500 women in Ontario were diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,950 died from the disease. Cervical cancer is preventable with regular cancer screening. Yet year after year in Ontario, about 550 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 160 cases will be fatal.
“The statistics can be a bit startling, but the good news about these two types of cancers is that there is a method to screen for them. A breast screening mammogram and cervical cancer screening Pap test can help to find cancer early when it is smaller and less likely to have spread and that makes it easier to treat,” explains Heiskanen.
There are more opportunities for women to get screened this month. In addition to calling the Ontario Breast Screening Program to book an appointment for a mammogram in a clinic or on the Screen for Life mobile cancer screening coach, there are also local and regional clinics opening their doors to all eligible women to get their Pap test. “Too many women in our region aren’t completing their Pap test screening. Having more clinics open their doors throughout October is a great way to increase screening opportunities,” says Heiskanen. “We are calling all eligible women to get screened for breast and cervical cancer. Book your appointment and get screened.” According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 15 percent of eligible women have never been screened for cervical cancer, and 30 percent haven’t been screened in the last three years.