April 24, 2014 2:35 pm

Breast cancer foundation urging women to get screened for disease

WATCH ABOVE: Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is launching a Facebook page to encourage mammograms. Crystal Goomansingh reports.

TORONTO – In 2012, Brenda Stover hopped on to a breast cancer screening tour bus. That stop for a screening test saved her life.

A small tumour near the chest wall was picked up on the mammogram. It was found early and she’s been cancer-free for one year.

“It works. That’s all I know,” Stover said.

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The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is spreading Stover’s story, along with others, in an effort to raise awareness about the benefits of getting a mammogram.

READ MORE: Breast cancer and genetics – Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy

Get screened, the organization – among Canada’s largest non-government funders of cancer research – is telling women in a new campaign. Its launch comes just months after a contentious Canadian study suggested that breast cancer screening with mammography isn’t reducing the number of deaths from this cancer.

Sixty-eight per cent of Canadian women are confused about what is true or not true when it comes to mammography, according to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of the foundation.

“We know that women are confused about benefits of screening and it’s important for them to be informed and make informed decisions,” Sandra Palermo, CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, told Global News.

The CBCF rolled out its My Breast My Test campaign on Thursday – it granted Global News early access to the campaign’s Facebook page on Wednesday night.

The Canadian National Breast Cancer Screening Study spanned about 25 years. The research, published in February in the British journal BMJ, found that deaths from breast cancer were nearly equal whether women had a mammogram or not.

READ MORE: Screening mammography doesn’t cut breast cancer deaths, study warns

It also hinted at an over-diagnosis of breast cancer.

(An important point to make clear: The study looked at mammography as a cancer screening tool, a way to find cancers early in people who appear to be healthy. Its findings have no bearing on the use of mammography to determine whether women who have found a lump or lumps in a breast actually have cancer.)

But the debate has left the medical field torn. One breast imaging research specialist told Global News that mammograms save lives.

“We know that in combination with modern therapies, it contributes to a reduction of mortality from breast cancer and that reduction can be anywhere from 25 per cent to even 50 per cent and that’s shown in recent studies,” Dr. Martin Yaffe, a Sunnybrook Hospital senior scientist, said.

READ MORE: 7 findings about Canada’s best and worst cancer-fighting cities

“It may not be perfect but it does make a difference and the harms are minimal,” Palermo said.

See the My Breast My Test Facebook page here.

- With files from the Canadian Press

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© Shaw Media, 2014

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