• The Low Down

Breast cancer screening ‘mission impossible’ in Outaouais

The Editor,


I recently came to realize, through personal experience, how bad the situation is in our region when it comes to breast cancer screening. Wait times are so long that you would have time to die twice before you're even diagnosed, and I'm hardly exaggerating.


Breast cancer screening uses two types of tests: mammogram (X-ray of the breast) and ultrasounds. Neither is especially complex or expensive so you would expect it to be fairly accessible. All the more so as public health authorities regularly encourage women to get screened, with campaigns like Octobre Rose.


But getting these tests done in the Outaouais is apparently mission impossible. From my personal experience, there are only three places where you can get tested: a private clinic on Boulevard Gréber and the two public hospitals of Hull and Gatineau. The private clinic, where I went, has only a one-week wait time for appointments but there's a catch: you wait forever for the results! Reviews on Google mention waiting five, six, seven months and even longer. Other private medical imaging clinics in the area don't offer breast cancer testing. I contacted several of them; they will test any other part of your body but not the breasts for reasons that escape me. It’s the same thing on the other side of the river – only a handful of private clinics do these tests in Ottawa and I've been informed the wait time is seven months.


As for the Hull and Gatineau hospitals, I've been told by their appointment desk that the wait is sixteen and eighteen months, respectively. The government's official website on wait times for breast cancer screening – yes, that's a thing; you can access it at inspq.qc.ca – shows how bad the situation is in the Outaouais compared to other regions in Quebec.


We're talking of a condition that affects one in eight women and for which early screening is crucial. It's also a topic that is highly personal. I have been hesitant to share my experience here. But I believe we need more awareness. How many women die in the Outaouais because they can't access screening? Why is the situation so bad in our region? Are health authorities doing anything about it? I would love to see a Low Down investigation on this.


Clara Kayser-Bril

Masham, QC