Overview of AHS Screening Programs
Alberta Health Services (AHS) Screening Programs provides many different services to support screening in the province. One of them is this website, designed to give Albertans the information they need to make informed decisions about cancer screening.
It can be easy to overlook cancer screening and follow-up appointments when people are busy. So we communicate directly with eligible Albertans about screening through personalized letters mailed to you, to help you stay on top of your health. You may receive some or all of these types of letters:
- Introduction letters: Introduces you to the program and encourages you to go for screening.
- Reminder letters: Lets you know when you’re overdue for screening.
- Result letters: Informs eligible Albertans of their test results.
Our goal is to reduce the number of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer-related deaths in Alberta by strengthening cancer screening in the province. Here are some ways we’re working to achieve this goal:
- Supporting Albertans in getting cancer screening across the province.
- Sending personalized letters to Albertans who are eligible for breast, cervical and/or colorectal cancer screening.
- Providing timely and accurate information, education and resources to the public and healthcare providers.
- Working with healthcare providers to ensure that patients with abnormal screening results get the follow-up care they need.
- Ensuring quality in every stage of the screening process.
To learn more download the report: Organized Cancer Screening in Alberta (2015).
What is screening?
Screening uses specialized tests to find potential health issues or conditions, like cancer, before symptoms appear. People who already have symptoms, or who receive abnormal screening results, have what are called diagnostic tests. These tests are used to confirm or rule out specific health issues or conditions.
Why is cancer screening important?
Finding cancer early on ensures that people can get treatment sooner, when it’s likely more effective. In the case of cervical and colorectal cancer, we can often prevent it altogether.
How our screening programs work
Alberta has 4 provincial, population-based cancer screening programs. These programs screen Albertans for breast, cervical, colorectal cancer and lung cancer screening which is starting a pilot phase in September 2022. They follow guidelines that are based on evidence for screening women and men. These guidelines help support healthcare providers and patients to make informed decisions about cancer screening.
Each of the provincial cancer screening programs works a bit differently to meet the needs of eligible people. Here’s what to expect:
Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Program (ABCSP)
- If you’re a woman between the ages of 45 and 74, you’re automatically included in the program.
- Once you turn 45, and if you haven’t had a screening mammogram in Alberta already, the ABCSP will send you a letter letting you know that you’re at an age when screening is important and inviting you to get screened.
- For all women 40 years and older, once you’ve had a screening mammogram, the radiology clinic will mail your results to you.
- You may receive reminder letters if you’re overdue for screening, or mobile announcement letters if you live in a rural community, letting you know when a mobile screening clinic will be in your area.
Alberta Cervical Cancer Screening Program (ACCSP)
- If you’re a woman between the ages of 25 and 69, you’re automatically included in the ACCSP program.
- If you haven’t already had a Pap test, the ACCSP will send you a letter inviting you to get screened.
- Once you have a Pap test, the program will mail your results to you.
- You’ll get a reminder if you need further testing.
- You’ll also receive reminder letters if you’re overdue for your next Pap test.
Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program (ACRCSP)
- If you’re between the ages of 50 and 74, you’re automatically included in the program.
- The ACRCSP will send you a result letter after you complete your first FIT home stool test.
- If you decided to do a FIT sooner than 1 year after your previous FIT, you’ll have to follow-up with your healthcare provider to get your results.
To take part in any of these programs, simply start getting screened and stay up-to-date with any follow-up tests that may be needed. Make sure to contact the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan if there are any changes to your name, address or marital status.
How you got on the list
Alberta Health provides AHS Screening Programs with the names and addresses of eligible Albertans so that we can send you personalized cancer screening letters. All of this is strictly governed by the Health Information Act to ensure your privacy.
If you’ve recently moved or changed your name, see changing your information.
Your privacy is protected
You can be confident that your information is kept secure, private and confidential at all times. AHS Screening Programs staff only have access to your cancer screening results and follow-up test results — they don’t access any of your other health information. Just like your doctor or other healthcare providers, our staff are bound by the Health Information Act.
If you would prefer not to receive letters from AHS Screening Programs, learn about program participation options.
Changing your information
Your name, address and marital status must be up-to-date with Alberta Health in order to get letters from AHS Screening Programs. You’ll need to update your information with the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan if you’ve moved or if your name or marital status has changed.
To do this: Call 310-0000 toll-free in Alberta, then dial (780) 427-1432.
If you’d prefer to make these changes by mail or in person, visit Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan to find out how.
There are many benefits to participating in AHS Cancer Screening Programs, including, receiving letters to help you keep on top of screening and results; and, supporting your healthcare provider to know when you’re overdue for follow-up screening.
We realize some Albertans might prefer not to take part. If you choose not to participate, you’ll still have full access to cancer screening services through your healthcare provider.
There are 2 levels of non-participation:
- No letter option: If you choose this option, you’ll no longer receive letters from the program(s) but your healthcare provider will continue to receive reminder letters from us if you are overdue for follow-up tests.
To stop letters, please call us at 1-866-727-3926 or complete this form and fax it to us at 1-888-944-3388.
- Exclusion: If you choose this option, neither you nor your healthcare provider will receive any letters from the program(s).
To be excluded from any of these programs, call AHS Screening Programs toll-free at 1-866-727-3926 during regular office hours, Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Our staff would be happy to assist you.
If you change your mind and would like to receive letters from us again, or rejoin the programs, call us at 1-866-727-3926.
Alberta Lung Cancer Screening Program (ALCSP)
Starting in September 2022, eligible Albertans will be able to get screened for lung cancer through the Alberta Lung Cancer Screening Program (ALCSP) pilot at multiple screening sites.
This new 2-year pilot program is funded through Alberta Health Services and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.
This initial phase of implementation of lung cancer screening will accept approximately 1,500 individuals each year who are between the ages of 50 and 74 and currently or previously smoked cigarettes.
Primary care providers in participating Primary Care Networks will refer eligible patients to the program, where a personalized lung cancer risk assessment will be done.
Eligible individuals will be scheduled for a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan by Diagnostic Imaging.
Tobacco cessation support will be available to all participants.
Evaluation will be ongoing throughout the project to inform province-wide implementation.
Screening for other types of cancer
At this time, AHS Screening Programs is limited to 4 types of cancer screening. This is because there currently isn’t enough evidence showing that other types of cancer screening will reduce the number of cancers or deaths across large populations (known as population-based screening). It may also cause more harm than benefit to those who are screened.
Tests for cancers such as prostate, skin or ovarian cancer may still be useful on an individual level depending on your personal risk and history. The following links on MyHealth.Alberta.ca can provide you with some more information. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about these types of cancer.