More Nova Scotia women are benefitting from early cancer detection because of the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary today, Oct. 14. “The single most effective way to detect breast cancer early is to be screened regularly,” said Paula English, chief of program standards and quality, Department of Health and Wellness. “The Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program makes it easier for every woman in the province who should be screened to have regular mammograms easily and conveniently.” The program opened its first fixed site at the Halifax Shopping Centre in 1991. Today, there are 11 sites and a mobile service, providing access to breast screening for women in all parts of the province. It has screened 177,617 women, performed nearly 720,000 mammograms, and detected more than 3,000 cases of breast cancer since its beginning. The program was one of the first in Canada to switch to digital screening. It was also the first to eliminate opportunistic screening (screening asymptomatic women in a diagnostic setting), leaving the diagnostic facilities free for those who need it. Dr. Judy Caines, medical director for the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program, introduced the stereotactic needle core biopsy in 1991, a procedure to assess whether an abnormality detected on a mammogram requires surgery. Nova Scotia now has the lowest benign breast surgery numbers in the country. Dr. Caines said the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program is seeing 67.6 per cent of Nova Scotians who should be getting routine mammograms and she would like to see that rate increase. “We are seeing many women, but there are more women out there who should be screened. Every Nova Scotian woman over the age of 40 should visit the program. With nearly 18 Nova Scotian women in 1,000 showing signs of breast cancer, it’s important to detect it early and begin treatment as soon as possible.” Nova Scotians can call 1-800-565-0548 or visit www.breastscreening.nshealth.ca to book an appointment for a screening in their area.