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Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP)

About the OBSP

Organized screening programs, such as the OBSP, provide important benefits, including the ability to do the following:

  • invite women to participate in screening
  • remind participants when it is time for their next screening test
  • notify participants of screening results
  • track participants throughout screening processes
  • evaluate program quality and performance

Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) 

Provincial Toll Free Number: 1-800-668-9304            


Local OBSP Screening Site location:

Group Health Centre - Algoma site
240 McNabb Street
Sault Ste. Marie ON P6B 1Y5
Telephone: 705-759-5657
Toll free: 1-888-240-3903
Fax: 705-759-5582


Did you know?
  • In Ontario, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.
  • Screening saves lives! Studies show that regular mammograms for women aged 50 to 74 years reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. 

  • Screening finds breast cancer earlier when there are more treatment options and an improved chance of survival. 

  • Women age 50 and over should have a mammogram at least every two years.
  • Women age 50 and over can call the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) and make their own appointment



What is a screening mammogram?

A mammogram takes an X-ray picture of the breast and can find changes in the breast even when they are too small for you or your healthcare provider to feel or see. For most women, the mammogram results will be normal. 



Are mammograms safe?

Mammograms are safe.  Mammograms use a low dose of radiation.  The benefits of screening and finding cancer early are more important than any potential harm from the X-ray.



Who should be screened?
The OBSP recommends that women aged 50 to 74 years who are at average risk for breast cancer have a screening mammogram every two years.

Women aged 30 to 69 years who have been confirmed to be at high risk for breast cancer should have a screening mammogram and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every year.

The time to go to screening is when you feel fine.  If you are worried about any breast problems, see your health care provider.


What can you do?

It is recommended that women talk to their healthcare provider about regular breast screening.

Regular mammograms, for women 50 - 74, every two years are the best way to reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.

If you are age 50 or older, you can make your own appointment with the Ontario Breast Screening Program, call 1.800.668.9304.

The OBSP recommends that all women be breast aware. Breast awareness means knowing how your breasts normally look and feel and knowing what changes to look for:

  • a lump or dimpling,
  • changes in your nipple or fluid leaking from the nipple,
  • skin changes or redness that does not go away,
  • any other changes in your breasts.

Most breast changes are not cancerous, but you should have these changes checked by your family doctor or nurse practitioner.

A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  • Avoid alcohol or have no more than one alcoholic drink per day.
  • Limit your time on hormone replacement therapy, if used. Talk with your family doctor or nurse practitioner before making any changes to your medication.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight, especially after menopause.
  • Be physically active as part of everyday life.

Screening tests are not perfect and cancers may be missed.

  • Screening may miss some breast cancers. Also, some cancers develop in the time between screens. These are among the reasons that regular screening is important.

What happens during the mammogram?
  • A registered medical radiation technologist specializing in mammography will place your breast on a special X-ray machine.
  • A plastic plate will be pressed down slowly to flatten your breast and hold it in place for a few seconds.
  • You will feel some pressure on your breast for a few seconds during the X-ray. This pressure does not harm your breast tissue.
  • Four pictures are taken, two of each breast.
  • The technologist will check the pictures to make sure they are good enough quality for the radiologist to read. If needed the technologist will take additional pictures.

How does it feel?

You will feel some pressure on your breast. It feels similar to a tight blood pressure cuff. A few women experience pain but it lasts only for a few seconds. If you feel pain during the X-ray, tell the technologist. The technologist may be able to adjust the pressure. The two of you can work together to make it as comfortable an experience as possible.


Some tips...
  • Most women’s breasts are tender the week before and after their period. Book your mammogram for a time when your breasts are not so tender.
  • Some women take a mild pain relief pill, such as the kind you would take for a headache, about one hour before the appointment. Only do this if it will not affect any other medicines or any health concerns you may have.
  • Some experts suggest having less caffeine for two weeks before the appointment to help reduce tenderness.

How to get ready for a mammogram

On the day of the mammogram:

  • Do wear a two-piece outfit. You will be asked to remove your top.
  • Do not use deodorants, antiperspirants, body lotions, or talcum powders. Metals in these products can show up on the X-ray picture.


For more information about the OBSP or to find an OBSP site, call 1-800-668-9304or visit: www.cancercare.on.ca/screenforlife

For more information see
'Mammogram' under the 'Diagnostic Tests' tab.


Created February 2003
Revised September 11, 2014

The world is full of great things to look forward to and it comes one day at a time!
Crystal, Sudbury
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