This column is ‘for the ladies’ and those who love them. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. Each year, thousands of Canadians are touched by breast cancer – individuals living with the disease, their families, friends, and loved ones. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among Canadian women. Despite slight declines in mortality rates over the past decade for women with breast cancer, it is estimated that about 1 in 8 Canadian women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime and 1 in 33 will die from it.

· 27,400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This represents 25 percent of all new cancer cases in women in 2020.

· 5,100 women will die from breast cancer. This represents 13 percent of all cancer deaths in women in 2020.

· On average, 75 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

· On average, 14 Canadian women will die from breast cancer every day.

· 240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer during the year and 55 will die from breast cancer.

Statistically, a senior woman with breast cancer is defined as a person who has been diagnosed at 65 or older. The risk of breast cancer increases with age. In Canada, the median age of cancer diagnosis is between 65-69 years of age, and 88 percent of all new cases are diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50. An estimated 61 percent of cancer deaths also occur in people aged 70 years or older.

If you are over the age of 65, your treatment and care decisions may require different considerations than for younger women. Research indicates that senior women with breast cancer experience distinct challenges in the healthcare system. Many older women often delay reporting, or underreport symptoms and signs of breast cancer to their healthcare provider, which can lead to cancer being diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Many senior women are affected by multiple disorders or diseases at the same time, in addition to breast cancer. Treatments for other disorders can impact your choices in breast cancer treatment and care as well. Senior women also face challenges with under-treatment, as they are not always presented with the same treatment options as younger women because it is assumed that they will benefit less due to their age.

Senior women are also underrepresented in clinical trial research for breast cancer, leading to a limited knowledge base on how breast cancer should be treated and managed in elderly women. There is also some evidence to suggest that many older women, when faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, have fewer supportive networks to rely on, than younger women. This can impact a senior woman’s emotional, psychological, and social reaction to a breast cancer diagnosis.

With the plethora of available statistics and risk factors in mind, the Ontario Breast Screening Guidelines suggest that women aged 40 to 49 and over age 74 be aware of any changes in their breasts and report any unusual findings to their health care provider; have an annual physical breast exam by a trained health care provider; and discuss the need for a mammogram with their health care provider. In addition to the professional interventions, develop a healthy habit of monthly self-breast examination. Ask your health care professional for a brochure or further information.

Support the ladies in your life by wearing pink and assisting them in their efforts to keep their health in the pink.

Information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert, CCSH, 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at or email me at, or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and assistance. Community Care is a proud United Way member agency. Funding in part from the South East Local Health Integration Network.