Screening for breast cancer

Screening means checking for a disease in a group of people who don’t show any symptoms of the disease. Screening tests help find breast cancer before any symptoms develop. When breast cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better. Follow breast screening guidelines even when you feel well and healthy.

Provincial and territorial screening programs use screening mammography. A mammography is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. It is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early in women.

Women should be aware of the benefits and limitations of screening mammography based on their age and risk factors to help decide if it is right for them. Talk with your doctor to help make your decision.

If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about your risk for breast cancer, along with the benefits and limitations of having a mammogram.

If you are 50 to 74 years old, have a mammogram every 2 years.

If you are 75 or older, talk to your doctor about whether having a mammogram is right for you.

Find out more about breast cancer screening.

Expert review and references

  • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC). Organized Breast Cancer Screening Programs in Canada: Report on Program Performance in 2007 and 2008. Toronto, ON: Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; 2013.
  • Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, Tonelli M, Connor Gorber S, et al . Recommendations on screening for breast cancer in average-risk women aged 40-74 years. CMAJ. Reviewed ed. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Medical Association (CMA); 2011.
  • Gotzsche PC, Jorgensen KJ . Screening for breast cancer with mammography. The Cochrane Collaboration. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons; 2013.
  • World Health Organization. Breast Cancer: Prevention and Control. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO); 2017.