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UPDATE: P.E.I. breast screening to include density information

Premier Dennis King announced at Tuesday's question period there will be changes in how results from breast density screenings will be shared with patients. Stu Neatby/The Guardian
Premier Dennis King announced at Tuesday's question period that breast screenings will now include density information. - Stu Neatby

Changes sought by advocacy groups are finally coming to the Island’s breast screening programs.

Premier Dennis King announced today in the provincial legislature that the province will be finalizing an agreement with a new software provider to send screening results of breast density to Islanders by mail.

The results will notify patients of their breast density in categories A, B, C or D.

These categories are determined objectively through artificial intelligence rather than through the subject view of a radiologist.

“Mr. Speaker, those Islanders that require more frequent screening based on their results will be notified when their next screening will take place,” he said.

King went on to say it was important to share breast density information directly with patients to understand their overall breast health and minimize future risk.

King said that Health P.E.I.  is also finalizing a review of the entire breast screening program.

The review is looking at current standards of practice, screening guidelines, evidence-based information and best practices across the country.

“On a personal note, I’ve had two sisters who have been treated for breast cancer – one of them twice – and I hope today, they are happy,” said King.

NOT DESIGNED TO ALARM OR SCARE

In an interview with the Guardian after his announcement in the legislature, King said these changes will be implemented as early as Jan. 1, 2020.

The province will be allocating around $80,000 to $85,000 from the operating budget for the technology that will allow information to be shared directly to patients.

“(This) encourages them to continue (to) be vigilant going forward. This (system) isn’t designed to alarm or scare anyone, we want to inform them with as much information as we possibly can,” he said.

As far as the Health P.E.I. review of the breast screening program, King said there is no exact timeline when the results will be available to Islanders.

The review, a complete examination of the internal process of the breast screening program, started earlier this year.

King said it may take a few more months to finalize the review process.

“I’m over the moon, I’m thrilled beyond belief. This is totally exciting news,” said Kathy Kaufield, a breast cancer survivor who is originally from P.E.I. and now lives in New Brunswick.

She started an advocacy campaign called “Tell Me My Breast Density” in New Brunswick to inform women about breast density in 2018.

Kaufield said she’s known King for 25 years and he approached her on bringing the campaign to P.E.I. and made it one of his campaign promises in April of 2019.

“And I am so happy with the January 1 deadline – (it's) excellent. Premier King (also) committed to screening ultrasounds for women with the highest breast density. P.E.I. would lead Canada on this.”

Twitter.com/Ernesto_Carranz

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