Screening For Breast Cancer

Screening for cancer on this page means special health checks for women who have no symptoms (signs) of cancer. The advantage of screening is that it can detect cancer at a very early stage, meaning that treatment is more likely to be successful.

Cancers that can be screened include bowel/colon cancer, cervical cancer and breast cancer.

Research is clear that regular screening saves lives.

 Breast Screening / Mammogram

A mammogram is a special kind of x-ray, used to detect abnormalities in the breast that are too small to be seen or felt.

In NWT mammograms are available in Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik.

How a mammogram is arranged, where it happens and when, depends on a number of things including:

  • your age,
  • if you are at higher risk of breast cancer (more information on that here and lower on this page),
  • where you live.


NWT health services recommend that women who have no symptoms, have never had breast cancer, and are aged 50 – 74 are screened by having a mammogram every 2-3 years.  How screening is arranged for these women depends on where they live:

Women in Yellowknife, N'dilo, Dettah, Behchoko, Hay River, Ft Resolution, Ft Smith and the Deh Cho Health Authority:
  • You do not need a doctor’s referral.
  • In the Yellowknife area call 867 765 4020.
  • In the Hay River area call 867 874 7223.
If you live in any other community in the NWT:
  • You DO need a referral from your doctor or healthcare provider.
  • Ask your doctor/healthcare provider to arrange travel benefits so this cost is covered for you.


Click here for a leaflet about the NWT Breast Cancer Screening Program 


Women at higher risk of Breast Cancer

This might include women who:

  • Have close relatives who had breast or ovarian cancer
  • Had radiation to the chest earlier in their lives.

If you think you might be high risk, you can be screened younger than 50 and more often than every two years. Talk to your doctor or health care provider if this could apply to you.

Click here to see the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website for more information on who may be at higher risk.

Learn more about High Risk Breast Cancer

A mammogram might not be appropriate for screening, for example if you:

  • Have breast implants;
  • Are breast feeding or pregnant.

Talk to your doctor/healthcare provider if this may apply to you. You can still be screened for breast cancer by a physical examination. 

More About Lumps

The model shows how mammograms find cancerous lumps that are still very small.

More About Breast Cancer Screening

See this page of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website for what to expect when you have a mammogram, with advice on things like what will happen and what to wear.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation page also explains that you will be called back for further tests if a mammogram picks up something unusual. 95% of the time these tests rule out cancer.

Although research is clear that mammograms save lives, they are not 100% fail-safe. If you want to know more about the benefits and limitations of mammograms, check the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website here