Changes to breast cancer screening services
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to breast cancer screening services have been put in place to reduce the risk of contamination for the public and for health professionals.
All breast cancer screening and follow-up tests have been postponed until further notice.
- If you recently had a screening mammogram under the Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program (PQDCS), you will receive your result letter as planned.
- If you need an additional examination (for example, a mammogram, an ultrasound or a biopsy), your situation is assessed by a health professional. The most urgent tests are maintained, while other tests are postponed, depending on each woman’s situation. If possible, some of these tests may be transferred to a private clinic to reduce congestion in hospitals.
- If your appointment for a test is maintained, your designated screening centre will contact you. Screening centres are taking the necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your cooperation. It is important.
For additional information, contact the Regional Service Coordination Centre in your region.
Even though screening tests have been postponed, if you notice any of the following breast changes, please contact a health professional (a doctor or a specialized nurse practitioner) immediately:
- a lump (mass) in the breast;
- the skin on a breast is pulled inward (retraction);
- the skin on a breast looks like orange peel;
- the skin over one third or more of a breast becomes red;
- fluid suddenly comes out of the nipple;
- the nipple is retracted (the nipple looks like it is pulled inward;
- the skin on the nipple looks or feels different (for example, it may look like eczema but does not get better).
At this time, the Gouvernement du Québec is working on a plan for gradually and safely resuming Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program activities
About 10 % of women in the PQDCS have an abnormal mammogram result. When a mammogram is abnormal, additional examinations are required for more definitive results. If you have an abnormal mammogram, don't worry. In most cases, additional examinations do not reveal a cancer.
If you must have additional examinations, contact a Designated Reference Center for Investigation (CRID) or a Designated Screening Center (CDD) to make an appointment without delay.
Wait times for additional examinations may vary by CRID and CDD. To find out about wait times by CRID and CDD, consult the Wait times for access to mammography and other examinations page on the website of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (in French only).
Talk to your doctor if you wish to have your additional examinations at a facility other than a CRID or CDD.
Types of Additional Examinations
The various additional examinations each correspond to a specific need. You will only have additional examinations that are required for your specific situation.
Type of Additional Examinations
Clinical breast examination
Inspection and palpation of the breasts and armpits by a doctor
Additional mammograms to see a part of the breast better and to specify the nature of the abnormality.
A test to see inside the breast using an ultrasound probe.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
An exam to see inside the breast using magnetic fields.
Removal of a cell or tissue sample in the breast with a needle.
Removal of tissue from a breast lump through surgery.
Stereotactic localization biopsy
Surgery that requires placing a marker (a fine wire) in the breast at the exact spot where an abnormality has been detected using a computer. This wire serves as a marker to guide the surgeon in an accurate sampling of the area in question.
Preparing for Additional Examinations
If you must have additional examinations, prepare as you would for a mammogram. Also follow the instructions that are given to you when you make your appointment.
Like many women, you may be worried about having tests to screen for a breast disease. Discuss your fears and concerns openly with your doctor. You can also get information and support from the Regional Service Coordination Center (CCSR) in your region. Ask about wait times for receiving your test results.
Additional examinations results
Your test results will be given to you by your doctor or the center where you had your exam.
There are 2 possible results: normal or abnormal.
- Normal result: In 95 % of cases, additional examinations results are normal. In other words, nothing points to the presence of a cancer in the breast at the moment of examination.
- Abnormal result: In 5 % of cases, additional examinations confirm the presence of a cancer. If you receive an abnormal result, your doctor will inform you of the necessary steps.
Do not hesitate to talk to a doctor for more information:
- About your mammography results
- About the results of your additional examinations
- About anything else on your mind