News Releases
Government Home Search Sitemap Contact Us  

January 31, 1996

Breast Screening Program officially launched in province

A new program designed to improve the health of women was officially launched in the province today. The Breast Screening Program for Newfoundland and Labrador is a pilot project that aims to reduce illness and death related to breast cancer. It will be offered immediately to women who live on the Avalon Peninsula and in the Central East Health Region, with plans to eventually expand the program to women in all regions of the province.

"Today marks a very significant step in terms of improving the health of women in Newfoundland and Labrador," stated Lloyd Matthews, Minister of Health. "Breast cancer continues to be a serious health problem. In fact, it is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in this province."

The Breast Screening Program takes a holistic approach and includes four components:

  • breast health education for the general public and health professionals;
  • the promotion of breast self examination for women 15 years of age and older;
  • the promotion of clinical breast examination for all women, especially those over the age of 40 years;
  • screening mammography and clinical breast examination, at one of two screening centres, every two years for asymptomatic women between the ages of 50 - 69.

Regina Sullivan, coordinator of the Breast Screening Program, explained how the screening centre component will work. "At the Breast Screening Centres, women will have the opportunity to learn about breast health and breast self examination, they will be given a clinical breast examination by a nurse with special preparation in such examinations, and a mammogram by a radiation technologist with special education in mammography. The process will take about an hour. A referral from a doctor is not required. The report of the screening examination will be sent to the woman and her family doctor within two weeks."

"The support of family doctors is essential to the success of this program," added Dr. William Tiller, medical director for the Breast Screening Program. "We know that the support of a woman's physician is often the deciding factor for a woman to seek breast screening. I urge physicians to promote this program to their female patients, and to encourage women who are 50 - 69 years of age and live in the pilot catchment areas, to come to the screening centre nearest them."

Breast screening for women between 50 - 69 years is an effective way to reduce breast cancer mortality. "Breast screening is an early detection program that improves survival rates, reduces the extent of surgery, and reduces the emotional burden of breast cancer diagnosis," stated Bertha Paulse, executive director of the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation. "This program is a step in the right direction and the first formalized approach for cancer screening and early detection programs in this province."

Eleanor Nolan is a health care consumer and a member of the steering committee for the Breast Screening Program. "Most of us need to make changes in our lives to help prevent illness and find ways to detect problems early, before they become more serious. As a survivor of breast cancer, I feel it is very important to think seriously about the kinds of changes we need to make. I would strongly encourage all women in the targeted age group and catchment areas to take advantage of this marvellous opportunity to enhance their own health and, indirectly, that of their families."

The Breast Screening Program is the result of ongoing collaboration and partnerships throughout the health care and other sectors. Joan Dawe, assistant deputy minister of Health, explains: "This pilot program is occurring as a result of a partnership between regional health boards, the Department of Health, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland, the Newfoundland Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, the Newfoundland division of the Canadian Cancer Society, Memorial University's Community Medicine division, as well as health care consumers and cancer survivors. This collaboration has been an extremely positive initiative and will no doubt serve as a role model for future health promotion initiatives."


  • Jennifer Doyle
    Director of Communications
    Community Health - St. John's Region
    (partner, Breast Screening Program)
    Phone: (709) 738-4903

    Jill Sooley
    Public Relations Director
    Department of Health
    Phone: (709) 729-1377


The Breast Screening Program for Newfoundland and Labrador is a three year pilot project funded by the provincial government (Department of Health) and includes four major components:

  • Breast health education for the general public and health professionals;
  • The promotion of breast self examination for women 15 years of age and older;
  • The promotion of clinical breast examination for women 40 years of age and older; and
  • Biennial screening mammography and clinical breast examination for asymptomatic women 50 - 69 years of age at the Breast Screening Centres.

The steering committee of the program is chaired by Joan Dawe, Assistant Deputy Minister, Community Health. At the present time, there are four subcommittees: Education and Breast Examination; Mammography; Evaluation; and Quality Assurance which provide guidance in program development. In addition, there is a Communication Working Group to provide community-based direction in planning the public education and outreach strategies.

These committees include representatives from community health boards, hospital boards, other health service agencies and community service organizations, professional associations, post-secondary institutions, as well as other committed individuals including survivors/consumers.

The pilot testing of the Breast Screening Program will occur in two areas of the province:

  • The Avalon Peninsula, west to Sunnyside; and
  • The Central East Health Region extending from Terra Nova in the east, northeast to Wesleyville, north to Fogo and Twillingate, and west to Glenwood. The program plans to expand its services to women in other regions of the province when the pilot phase is complete and evaluated.

The two Breast Screening Centres for all women in the program catchment areas will be located at the Grace General Nurses' Residence in St. John's and the James Paton Memorial Hospital in Gander. Women do not need a referral from their doctor. Women who are 50 - 69 years of age and live in one of the two catchment areas will receive a letter of invitation to the program. Women are then encouraged to phone their nearest centre to make an appointment.

At the Breast Screening Centre, women will have the opportunity to learn more about breast health, and how to perform a breast self examination. Women will also receive a clinical breast examination and screening mammogram. Comprehensive and coordinated follow-up of all clinical findings will be an essential component of the program.


  • In 1992, an ad hoc committee was set up by the Minister of Health to study the status of breast cancer and breast screening services in the province. In 1994, this committee recommended that a three year pilot breast screening program be implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is the eighth province of Canada to implement an organized breast screening program.
  • The Breast Screening Program for Newfoundland and Labrador will provide:
    • outreach education services to approximately 124,000 women aged 15 and older who live in the catchment areas of the pilot project;
    • breast screening services to approximately 24,000 women aged 50 - 69 who live in the catchment areas of the pilot project.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador in 1994, there were 252 new cases of breast cancer among women.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador in 1993, breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer death among women (16.1 per cent of all cancer deaths).In Newfoundland and Labrador in 1994, the crude rate for breast cancer among women was 88.5 per 100,000; greater than the crude rates for all other cancers in women.

Contact: Jennifer Doyle, (709) 738-4903.

1996 01 31 1:00 p.m.

SearchHomeBack to GovernmentContact Us

All material copyright the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. No unauthorized copying or redeployment permitted. The Government assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of any material deployed on an unauthorized server.
Disclaimer/Copyright/Privacy Statement