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Nova Scotians with Dense Breasts Deserve Supplemental Screening

Jul 9, 2024

Today, Leader of the Official Opposition Zach Churchill and MLA Rafah DiCostanzo will join breast cancer advocates at a rally at Province House to call on the Houston government to provide supplementary screening to Nova Scotians with dense breasts.

The Nova Scotia Liberal Caucus is committed to the Find It Early Act, introduced in the Legislature by DiCostanzo in March, which would provide supplementary screening to Nova Scotians with dense breasts, defined as C or D density.

“We know that people with dense breasts have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and that cancer is harder to detect in dense breasts on a regular mammogram,” said Churchill. “That’s why we’ve been advocating for Nova Scotians with category C and D breast density to be given access to supplemental screening, so more cancer cases can be caught earlier.”

Roughly 55 per cent of Canadian women in their 40s have dense breasts, and the vast majority of them have category C density. MRI machines can detect nearly four times more cancers than a regular mammogram, yet mammograms continue to be the standard practice for women with dense breasts in Nova Scotia.

“In 2022, I had regular screening for a lump in my breast and I was told it was not cancerous. Only months later, in 2023, another lump appeared, and I was diagnosed with 95% malignancy,” said DiCostanzo. “I have category C dense breasts; and I can’t help but wonder, if I were offered supplementary screening in 2022, would my outcome have been drastically different?”

Putting more resources into finding cancer early could save the healthcare system hundreds of thousands of dollars on treating advanced cancer, like performing mastectomies, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and prevent Nova Scotians from going through the trauma of treatment.

With the recent announcement of two new and two replacement MRI machines added to the system, now is the time for the Houston government to reconsider cancer screening practices in Nova Scotia.

“If I can save even one woman from going through the hell I went through, it is worth it,” said DiCostanzo.

Additional Quotes:

“I have been negatively impacted by lack of screening for patients with dense breasts. To think my cancer could have been less severe if they had done an ultrasound really upsets me. This bill would serve to assure women like me that we are doing the best that we can to find cancer early to avoid intensive treatments and surgery.”

- Cheryl Coffin, breast cancer survivor

“The Canadian Cancer Society projects that breast cancer will account for 23 per cent of cancers diagnosed in women in Nova Scotia this year. I am one of those women. Many of these women, like me, will have dense breasts. With the Find It Early Act, we know more cancer could be caught sooner.”

- Katie Kelly, dense breast advocate

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