AHS lowers recommended age for breast cancer screening

October 18, 2022

Many Alberta women are now able to start biennial (every two years) breast cancer screening sooner following changes to clinical practice guidelines.

The recommended age for biennial screening for average-risk women has been lowered to 45 from 50. Alberta is the first province in Canada to make these changes, which expand the benefits of routine screening to more people.

“Early detection and treatment give people with cancer the best chance to survive this disease. Alberta is leading the country by making breast cancer screening available to more women, at a younger age, saving lives in the process,” says Health Minister Jason Copping.

The updated guidelines were created by the Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) Committee and are the result of an extensive review of new available evidence.

“More evidence has become available to show net benefits of breast cancer screening at a younger age,” says committee co-chair Dr. Huiming Yang. “That is why the breast cancer screening guidelines now recommend including average-risk women aged 45 to 49 into biennial screening. We hope this will help to diagnose breast cancer earlier and, in turn, help save lives.”

Based on current screening rates, approximately 12,000 more screening mammograms could be performed each year for women aged 45 to 49. According to the most recent statistics, more than 240 Alberta women between the ages of 45 and 49 were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.

“Healthcare providers are encouraged to recommend biennial screening mammograms for women who are at average risk beginning at age 45,” says committee co-chair Dr. Lisa Stevenson. “By being more proactive in our screening efforts, we can make a real difference in the lives of Albertans.

Alberta woman ages 45 to 74 are advised to have a screening mammogram every two years or as decided in conjunction with a healthcare provider. Screening is the best way to find breast cancer early before symptoms appear and when treatment may work better.

The CPG Committee is comprised of 12 voting members, including family and public health physicians, radiologists, and a patient, surgeon, medical oncologist, radiological technician and nurse.

The updated guidelines are available on screeningforlife.ca.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.