Breast cancer screening services resuming
As breast cancer screening services resume gradually and safely, changes have been made to services to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Since June 4, 2020, breast cancer screening tests are gradually being resumed in Québec. Letters of invitation to participate the Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program (PQDCS) are gradually being sent out again too. Women will not all receive their letter at the same time.
- If your appointment for a mammogram was cancelled because of the pandemic, your Designated Screening Centre (CDD) will contact you to schedule another appointment.
- Screening and investigation centres are taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID‑19. Special measures have been put in place to keep you and health care professionals safe. To safeguard everyone’s health, please follow the instructions.
- To discuss the advantages and disadvantages of screening or if you are at risk of complications associated with COVID‑19 (for example, you have a chronic disease or a weakened immune system), see a doctor or a specialized nurse practitioner (SNP).
- If you received a letter of invitation but are no longer in the target age group to participate in the Québec Breast Cancer Screening Program (you are 70 years of age or older), you must get a medical prescription for a mammogram. If you do not have a family doctor or SNP, contact your Regional Service Coordination Centre (CCSR) to find out what to do.
For additional information, contact the CCSR in your region.
If you notice any of the following breast changes at any time, contact a doctor or SNP 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).
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.