October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here’s some key things to know about breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ontario women.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Regular breast cancer screening is important because it can find cancer early when it may be smaller and easier to treat.

There are things that you can do to lower your chance of getting breast cancer:

  • Limit alcohol – any amount of alcohol can increase the chance of getting breast cancer;
  • Quit smoking and stop using tobacco products (e.g. cigarettes and chewing tobacco);
  • Be physically active as part of your everyday life;
  • Have a healthy body weight; and
  • Limit time on oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

Learn more about your breast cancer risk and how to reduce your risk at My CancerIQ.

What you should know about screening:

If you have breast tissue, it is recommended that you be screened according to provincial guidelines, regardless of your gender identity or sexual identity. The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) provides high-quality breast cancer screening for two groups of people:  

Average Risk: The OBSP recommends that most women ages 50 to 74 get checked every two years with mammography.

Ontario women ages 50 to 74 are eligible for average risk screening if they:

  • have no breast / chest symptoms;
  • have no personal history of breast / chest cancer;
  • have no current breast implants;
  • have not had a mastectomy; and
  • have not had a screening mammogram within the last 11 months.

(Women over age 74 can be screened within the OBSP with a physician referral)

Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario) is working to implement a policy for the inclusion of trans and gender diverse people in its organized screening programs. More info here.

Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about your breast screening options, check here to find a breast screening location near you, or call 1-800-668-9304.

High Risk: The OBSP recommends that women ages 30 to 69 who are confirmed to be at high risk of getting breast cancer get checked once a year with a mammogram and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (or screening breast ultrasound if MRI is not medically appropriate) through the High Risk Ontario Breast Screening Program (High Risk OBSP). You can be referred into this program by your healthcare provider based on your family or medical history. Check here for more information about high risk breast screening.

Most people with abnormal mammogram results do not have breast cancer.

More tests are needed after an abnormal mammogram to see if a person has cancer. If you have an abnormal screening result, be sure to go for any follow-up tests and appointments that are booked for you. Check here for more information about your mammogram results.

Changes in the breast are not always signs of cancer.

Regardless of your age, if you notice any changes with your breasts or have concerns, see your family doctor or nurse practitioner. Most changes are not cancer, but they should be checked right away.

Be breast aware and talk to your doctor if you notice:

  • A lump or dimpling on the breast;
  • Changes in the nipple or fluid coming from the nipple;
  • Redness or skin changes that do not go away, and
  • Any other changes in the breasts.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit My CancerIQ to learn more about your breast cancer risk, and speak to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about your breast screening options.  For more information, visit

About the author

Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program

Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program

Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre is a co-leading Regional Cancer Centre of the Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program, which oversees the delivery and quality of cancer services for the more than one million residents of Central Toronto.