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‘It’s never too early’: B.C. women urged to speak to their doctors about breast cancer

With one in every eight women expected to get breast cancer in her lifetime, a Vancouver doctor says it’s never too early to talk to your doctor.

“Women need to be aware of what’s going on with their breasts,” Dr. Beth Donaldson, medical director and family doctor with Copeman Healthcare Centre, said.

Women without a family history of cancer should speak to a doctor about testing when they turn 40, Donaldson said.

Waiting too long, she noted, can turn a curable disease into a deadly diagnosis.

“I had one woman who had been ignoring having mammograms,” Donaldson said.

“She came to me at 49 with a lump in her neck.”

If the patient came to her in her early 40s, “she’d still be alive today.”

“When you catch it early there’s so many more options for treatment. and treatment in B.C. is excellent,” Donaldson noted.

“It’s never too early to start asking.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and BC Cancer statistics show one in 34 women die of breast cancer, compared to the one in eight diagnosed. Five year survival rates for breast cancer are higher than 80 per cent.

Women with histories of breast cancer should start talking to a doctor as early as in the 20s, Donaldson said.

When women go in, they should be prepared to provide “family history for cancers, her own [medical] history,” and be ready for a breast exam and then if needed a referral for a screening and diagnostics.”

For women who don’t have family doctors, Donaldson said they can always go to a walk-in and request testing, or call a BC Cancer clinic in their area.

READ MORE: More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

READ MORE: B.C. oncologist changing the face of breast cancer treatment


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Katya Slepian

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Katya Slepian

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