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Many Ontario women unclear about breast cancer screening: poll

A recent poll suggests the message about breast cancer awareness hasn’t been clear enough for many Ontario women, who couldn’t pinpoint the age when screening should start and couldn’t identify the most effective way to screen for the disease.

An Ipsos Reid poll conducted for the Canadian Cancer Society showed of the 1,223 women ages 18 to 69 polled, 42 per cent said regular mammograms should start at age 40. Thirty-two per cent said regular mammograms should start at age 50 — the correct age.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends women should have a mammogram every two years between the ages of 50 and 69.

“The results are alarming because there’s so much being done to raise awareness,” Rowena Pinto of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Ontario division said. “Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women, so not only do we want to bring attention to this critical issue, we want to empower women and stop the confusion.”

The confusion over the correct age to start screening could be attributed to the fact there have been calls from some groups to start regular mammograms for women in their 40s. The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care has said mammography isn’t the most effective way to prevent the disease in women of that age group.

About 9,100 women in Ontario will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and about 2,000 will die of the disease.

The poll, conducted between Aug. 27 and Sept. 7, also found 46 per cent of women weren’t aware that mammograms were the best way to screen for breast cancer.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from The Canadian Press