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Breast cancer detection method, diagnostic interval and use of specialized diagnostic assessment units across Ontario, Canada


Introduction — Breast cancer is detected through screening or through signs and symptoms. In Canada, mammograms for breast cancer screening are offered in organized programs or independently (opportunistic screening). Province of Ontario breast Diagnostic Assessment Units (DAUs) are facility-based programs that provide coordinated breast cancer diagnostic services, as opposed to usual care, in which the primary care provider arranges the tests and consultations. This study describes breast cancer detection method, diagnostic interval and DAU use across Ontario.

Methods — The study cohort consisted of 6898 women with invasive breast cancer diagnosed in 2011. We used the Ontario Cancer Registry linked to administrative healthcare databases. We determined the detection method using the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) data and physician claims. The diagnostic interval was the time between the initial screen, specialist referral or first diagnostic test and the cancer diagnosis. The diagnostic route (whether through DAU or usual care) was determined based on the OBSP records and biopsy or surgery location. We mapped the diagnostic interval and DAU coverage geographically by women's residence.

Results — In 2011, 36% of Ontario breast cancer patients were screen-detected, with a 48% rate among those aged 50 to 69. The provincial median diagnostic interval was 32 days, with county medians ranging from 15 to 65 days. Provincially, 48.4% were diagnosed at a DAU, and this ranged from zero to 100% across counties.

Conclusion — The screening detection rate in age-eligible breast cancer patients was lower than published population-wide screening rates. Geographic mapping of the diagnostic interval and DAU use reveals regional variations in cancer diagnostic care that need to be addressed.



Jiang L, Gilbert J, Langley H, Moineddin R, Groome PA. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2018; 38(10):358-67. Epub 2018 Oct 1.

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