FREE Public Event: Cracking the Cancer Code
Cracking the Cancer Code!
November 18, 2022
The Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute invites you to join us for the 2nd of a six-part Cracking the Cancer Code Speaker Series, an immersive evening featuring TED Talk-style discussions with the best and brightest in cancer research here in Calgary, as well as demonstrations from our top trainees.
The featured topic will bring to light what is the next step in the fight against cancer –beating it to the punch. Prevention and screening are now at the forefront of the cancer conversation. Join cancer researchers and medical professionals working to move the needle on cancer prevention and screening, as they share the science behind these tools.
Join us on Tuesday, December 6th at 5:30 PM at the Central Library (Calgary, AB).
Featured talks include:
· Knowing and managing your cancer risk
· Understanding the science behind screening
· Recognizing when and why you should get checked.
Dr. Aaron Goodarzi is the Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure Disease and the founder and leader of the Evict Radon national study, which is aimed at understanding and engineering out radon gas exposure from the Canadian residential environment, as well as reducing the future incidence of radon-induced lung cancer by encouraging citizens to test for radon and share their findings with cancer researchers.
Dr. Darren Brenner is a molecular cancer epidemiologist in the Department of Oncology and Community Health Sciences at the University of Calgary. His research is focused on the intersection of lifestyle, genetics and molecular pathways in the development of several cancers.
Ms. Bonnie Chiang is the Program Manager for Alberta Health Services’ breast and cervical cancer screening programs with a background in public health nursing and community outreach.
Alberta Cancer Foundation
Help the Alberta Cancer Foundation raise funds to keep the Screen Test mobile screening units on the road!
November 15, 2022
The Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF) is raising $3 million to enhance the Screen Test mobile units and equipment. But we can’t do it alone – we need your help.
These units bring breast cancer screening to rural and remote communities throughout Alberta. Easy access means more Albertans can get screened and more cancers can be discovered early – when treatment works best! Click below to access the donation page and help bring breast cancer screening to more Albertans:
Updated breast cancer screening clinical practice guidelines
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 women 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.
Screen Test Mobile milestone
Screen Test Mobile Mammography Clinic Celebrates 30 Years of Service
This September marks the 30th anniversary of AHS Screen Test Mobile Mammography. Since launching in 1991, we have made a positive impact on the lives of women living in many of Alberta’s rural and remote communities.
We continually strive to help reduce barriers by providing free breast cancer screening where women live. Since the first mobile screening clinic, we have completed over 308,500 screening mammograms (an x-ray of the breast) and found 1,845 cases of breast cancer.
About Screen Test Mobile
Screen Test Mobile is a service provided by AHS as part of the Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Program. Staffed by an incredible team of technologists, our two 53-foot mobile screening units are “clinics on wheels”.
We visit 120 rural and remote communities across Alberta, including 26 Indigenous communities, to offer high quality digital screening mammograms that consistently meet or exceed national standards.
Clients in many of these rural communities say that if it weren’t for Screen Test, they likely wouldn’t be able to have regular mammograms.
“Would not get screened if the bus did not come to Mayerthorpe! So glad this service is provided to us!” – Mayerthorpe client
AHS is proud to bring this critical service to women throughout the province.
Breast cancer screening and you
Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women and the second leading cause of female cancer deaths in Alberta.
The good news – having regular screening mammograms is the best way to find breast cancer early, before there are symptoms and when treatment may work better. Remember, breast cancer screening is for people who may feel healthy and have no symptoms.
If you’re 50 to 74 years of age, we encourage you to make screening mammograms part of your regular health routine. Get screened every two years or as decided by you and your healthcare provider. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your breast health.
Screen Test saves lives
Mobile Mammography service detects early-stage breast cancer
Story by Yolanda Genu l Photo by Nicole Kulba
October 14, 2020
Joan Tiedemann knows the importance of early detection of breast cancer, because she’s alive to tell her story.
“Getting the news was unexpected. My legs were knocked right out from under me,” says the 73-year-old, who learned about her breast cancer diagnosis in 2018.
Ironically, Tiedemann is very familiar with the world of mammograms (breast X-rays) and breast cancer — she’s been a volunteer at Tofield Health Centre’s mobile mammography clinic for three years.
Despite regularly offering comforting words to nervous clients and helping them fill out questionnaires, Tiedemann had no inkling that breast cancer could happen to her.
“I didn’t expect the news because no one in my family has a history of breast cancer,” she adds.
Eighty per cent of women who develop breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer, says Joan Hauber, manager of Alberta Health Services’ Screen Test program.
Moreover, the risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Women aged 50 to 74 are encouraged to get regular mammograms. For most, this is usually every two years. Hauber advises women who notice any changes in their breasts to see their healthcare provider as early as possible.
Although mammograms are performed at specific radiology clinics and some hospitals across Alberta, for women like Tiedemann who live in rural areas, the mammography trailer visits 120 communities every year to bring this necessary service to them.
Fortunately, Tiedemann was volunteering in the right place at the right time: A technologist checked the date of Tiedemann’s last mammogram — and found it was six years overdue. After two mammograms, two ultrasounds and a biopsy, Tiedemann was given the news.
“They caught the cancer early,” she says. “After surgery I went to the Cross Cancer in Edmonton for radiation, where I had 16 treatments.”
Tiedemann stayed at the Sorrentino’s Compassion House, which supports women from northern Alberta while they receive treatment. She adds she was thankful to be closer to her treatment centre, and to know that she wasn’t alone.
She admits she found her radiation treatments scary. “It’s kind of intimidating, but all the health professionals were empathetic, and gave me time to get comfortable.”
The independent-minded senior says she’s also grateful for her son and daughter-in law, a Licensed Practical Nurse, for providing follow-up support.
Her journey has also included getting a prosthetic, which is inserted into a lined pocket of her bra.
“I went to a boutique, and they helped me pick out bras because I couldn’t wear one like I did before. This gave me my confidence back.
“I’m healed and feel great with the prosthetic. The clothes look so much better, and it makes me feel better.”
Statistics from the Screen Test program indicate one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Screening through mammograms is the best way to detect breast cancer early, when treatment has the best chance of working.
“Go get your breasts checked because you have no way of knowing until you get checked. I couldn’t feel my lump because it was still very small,” says Tiedemann. “If the technologist didn’t say ‘get in there and get the mammogram,’ I would not have gotten checked.”
She emphasizes women should book their mammogram without delay. “Every year I’ll have a mammogram. I had my six-month checkup in January.”
Cancer screening services continue to use COVID precautions.
Cancer screening services throughout the province may continue to use COVID precautions, including mask wearing, decreased number of appointments to support physical distancing. Please check with your service provider about the precautions before your appointment.
FIT Testing Resumed in Alberta – June 17, 2020
As of June 15th, FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) testing has resumed in Alberta. If you’re between the ages of 50 and 74, talk to your healthcare provider to see if FIT is the right colorectal cancer screening test for you.
Your healthcare provider will give you a lab requisition form to get your FIT kit. Please be sure to bring this form with you when picking up and dropping off your FIT kit.
Getting your FIT results
Regular mail correspondence sent from the Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, including FIT results has also resumed. Please contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your result.
Remember that it’s important to see your healthcare provider if you develop any bowel symptoms.
Colonoscopy appointments and COVID-19: Is it safe to go?
A colonoscopy is the recommended follow-up test for patients who have an abnormal FIT result. We want to assure Albertans that Alberta Health Services continues to follow all public health recommendations and infection prevention and control measures. These updated measures help keep everyone safe and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. As such, it’s important that you don’t delay going for your appointment.
If you have concerns about whether you should have a follow-up test done, please speak to your healthcare provider. For more information on how you can protect yourself and others from COVID-19, visit ahs.ca/covid.
Resuming cancer screening in a phased approach - May 25 2020
The pandemic response to COVID-19 has required interruptions to routine screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. Through the collective efforts of Albertans, we are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19. This has given AHS confidence to begin resuming breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening appointments. This will be done using a cautious and phased approach, following all public health and safety considerations.
As of May 19th, some health clinics began resuming routine breast cancer screening. All clinics have adopted enhanced health and safety practices. To book an appointment, please contact the clinic where you would like to get your mammogram. (You can find a list of available clinics near you) Ask when they will be reopening and what safety measures you will need to follow to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This may include activities like completing a pre-screening assessment to make sure you are feeling well, wearing a face mask, or waiting in your car until you’re called to come in. These actions will help keep you and others safe while making sure you continue to get the health services you need.
Pap and FIT Tests
Patients are asked to contact their healthcare provider to determine when regular Pap tests should resume. FIT tests will resume at a later date. This will allow lab services to focus on COVID-19 testing. Updates will be provided on the website when timelines are confirmed. If you have an urgent concern such as a new symptom or a previous screen requiring immediate follow-up, contact your healthcare provider. Depending on the concern, you may be seen before routine screening services resume.
Thank you for your continued patience and efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We know this is an adjustment, but together we are keeping each other safe!
Resumption of Colonoscopy Procedures
Patients needing a colonoscopy: Cases will be prioritized based upon patient’s general health and the length of time they have waited for a procedure. If you’ve been waiting for a procedure and your health has changed, it’s important to let your family doctor know so that you can be reassessed. Endoscopy clinics will be in touch with you in the upcoming weeks to discuss booking your appointment. FIT testing will resume in Alberta at a later date.
Abnormal Pap Test Result – Next Steps
Patients who received an abnormal Pap test result letter: Please contact your healthcare provider to discuss your results. They’ll let you know what the next steps will be, including the need for follow-up appointments.
Update about AHS Screening Programs letters
Update June 17 2020 – The majority of AHS Screening Programs correspondence has resumed. If you have questions about your letter please call 1-866-727-3926.
Update May 25 2020 – In response to the COVID-19 situation, AHS Screening Programs will continue to only send abnormal results letters to eligible Albertans. All other letters, including invitations, normal results and reminder letters, are postponed at this time. AHS Screening Programs will resume its correspondence program in the near future.
March 2020 – Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation, beginning March 16, 2020, AHS Screening Programs will only be sending abnormal results letters to eligible Albertans. All other letters, including invitation, normal results and reminder letters, will be postponed until further notice. If you have any questions, please contact us at 1-866-727-3926.
May Ann's Story
Service on the go – Mobile cancer screening program saving lives
Story by Heather Kipling, AHS
Though she admits it’s not one of the most comfortable things she has ever done, May Ann Swanson is quick to point out that going for a screening mammogram has certainly been among the most important.
Now a regular patient when Screen Test’s mobile mammography units roll into Wainwright, Swanson couldn’t be happier with the service that provided early detection of breast cancer and gave her the best chances of a full recovery.
“I go every year and I swear by it,” says Swanson, who had both her mother and mother-in-law before her have lumps in their breasts detected by a mammogram. Swanson began using Screen Test’s mobile units in 2002. Only four years later, a screening mammogram detected the small lump in her breast, which was already spreading. “When the surgeon removed the lump, it also required the removal of 12 lymph nodes. If it hadn’t been found then, it could have been much worse for me.”
Providing early detection of breast cancer and other breast health concerns is at the very heart of Alberta Health Services’ Screen Test, which operates under the umbrella of the Alberta Breast Cancer Screening Program. Screen Test offers screening mammograms at two fixed locations — one in Edmonton and one in Calgary — and uses mobile units to visit more than 120 rural communities annually.
The mobile units are 53-foot semi-trailers, each one a self-contained screening facility complete with a reception room, dressing rooms and an exam room equipped with state-of-the-art digital mammography units.
“For women in rural communities, particularly those who do not have easy access to mammography facilities, the mobile units give them the ability to get the same service as women in larger centres without having to travel,” says Screen Test manager Joan Hauber. “We’re able to increase the number of women actually having regular mammograms and the more women who have regular mammograms, the better chance we have to detect cancers early. And early detection is so important. It can reduce the chance of dying from breast cancer by 30 per cent.”
Screening mammography is the only tool that has been proven to significantly reduce the mortality from breast cancer. A screening mammogram can detect a breast cancer up to two to three years before it would otherwise be detected by the patient or their doctor.
Screen Test targets women 50 to 74; when women in Alberta turn 50, they receive an invitation letter to undergo a screening mammogram. It is recommended women in the target age have a screening mammogram at least every two years.
For breast cancer survivors like Swanson, it’s a recommendation she champions. “It’s not the most comfortable thing you’ll ever do but it is so important for your health. It gives you the best chances,” she says. “I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough for what Screen Test did for me.”
Learn more about Screen Test.
New breast cancer screening resource
The new resource, Informed Decision Making and Breast Density booklet gives important information on what breast density is and why it matters for breast cancer screening. This resource shares pros and cons of screening to help women make informed decisions about whether or not screening is right for them. View this resource.