For the past eight years, Annie Slight has been battling breast cancer.
Since her April 2013 diagnosis, the Montreal resident has undergone 16 chemotherapy sessions, a bilateral mastectomy, a thorough hysterectomy, and two reconstructive surgeries. Despite being in remission, she still has two years of hormonal medication therapy ahead of her.
It’s been a nightmare that could’ve been avoided if she’d been diagnosed sooner, according to Slight.
“The cancer would have been discovered at least a year and a half sooner if I had been given the correct screening in addition to the mammography. So that’s a long time for cancer to advance,” said the 51-year-old special education teacher to Global News.
Slight got her first mammogram at the age of 40, which came back clear. However, what she wasn’t told at the time, was that she had dense breasts, which not only puts women at an increased risk of breast cancer, but cancer is more difficult to detect with a standard mammogram.
Slight’s case is not unique. A new survey by non-profit Dense Breast Canada showed that 30 per cent of women who had a mammogram were not informed of their breast density. That survey was part of a report published on Sept. 27 ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Currently in Canada, six provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – add density information to mammogram results. In all other jurisdictions, radiologists don’t tell women their breast density category.
Ontario mom Nicola St. George was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2019 – a year and half after her first mammogram, which did not detect anything at the time. She too wasn’t informed that she had dense breasts.
George only decided to get screened again after finding a lump while doing a self-exam lying in bed one night.
“I believe that ladies should be aware of their dense breasts because they should have follow-up mammograms and self-exams,” the 43-year-old high school teacher told Global News.
“It was really simply my luck that I decided to perform a self-examination and found it and trusted my instincts.”
According to experts, “inconsistencies” in breast screening techniques put women at danger, and many are turned away from screening due to “outdated guidelines.”
According to the Dense Breast Canada survey, which included 2,530 women, 42% of respondents were ignorant of the mammography screening eligibility age, which varies by province.