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
Other Screening Examinations (not recommended)
A mammography is the only recommended procedure for breast cancer screening in Québec. There are other methods to detect an abnormality, including:
- Breast self-examination
- Clinical breast examination
Breast self-examination is a screening method in which women use a specific technique to observe and touch their breasts on a regular basis. The goal of breast self-examination is to discover changes: a sign or lump that could indicate the presence of breast cancer.
Women were once taught breast self-examination to screen for breast cancer. However, studies showed that this method did not reduce breast cancer deaths and that it led to other unnecessary tests. Women who perform breast self-examinations do not reap the benefits but instead suffer inconveniences. As a result, breast self-examination is not recommended as an effective screening method. However, you must remain attentive and inform your doctor of any changes in your breasts.
A clinical breast examination is performed by a healthcare professional. The exam consists of observing and touching the women’s breasts and armpits to check for abnormalities. The exam can be used to verify certain symptoms or be done for other medical reasons.
However, no study has shown that clinical breast examination is a screening method that could reduce breast cancer mortality. This exam is therefore not recommended as a screening method but may be used as a follow-up to a mammogram.