A re-elected Liberal Government will ensure that breast density information is always provided to family doctors and to all patients following mammograms in order to increase awareness of this risk factor for breast cancer.
Gallant explained that information on breast density will be added to medical reports, as well as to the letters mailed to women accompanying their mammogram results. Enclosed information will also explain the implications of breast density.
Over 15 major studies have demonstrated a strong link between dense breasts and increased risk of cancer. Cancer is four to six times more likely in women with the highest level of breast density (level D). Research also shows that dense breasts are a more significant risk factor than a family history of breast cancer.
Since both normal dense breast tissue and cancer appear white on a mammogram, dense breast tissue can mask cancer. In fact, as breast density increases, the accuracy of mammograms decrease, with approximately 50 percent of breast cancers going undetected by mammography in women with the densest breasts.
Women with dense breasts are also much more likely to have an interval cancer, which is larger, grows more rapidly, and often spreads to the lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed. This type of cancer has a much worse prognosis than mammogram-detected cancers and is much more common in dense breasts.
Breast density is assessed by the radiologist viewing a mammogram. An estimated 81,000 women in New Brunswick have dense breasts (categories C and D), with an estimated 18,000 women in Category D, the highest category of density. Breast density is not consistently relayed to the family doctor by the screening agency, depending on the provincial zone and whether the radiologist chooses to assess the density. Even when the information is relayed to the family doctor, it is infrequently shared with the patient.
Throughout this election campaign, Gallant has announced a series of investments aimed at improving healthcare and healthcare wait times in New Brunswick. For instance:
- A re-elected Liberal Government will invest over $100 million in renovations to existing nursing homes over five years and will invest to complete the government’s five-year nursing home plan which calls for the construction of 10 new 60-bed nursing homes and an additional 407 memory care beds;
- A re-elected Liberal Government will also continue to invest significantly in healthcare infrastructure, pledging to invest $400 million over the course of its next mandate on equipment purchases and upgrades to hospitals. A dedicated $50 million fund over 10 years to invest in rural hospital infrastructure is also part of this larger infrastructure envelope, and rural hospitals would also be eligible to receive funding for projects out of the broader infrastructure fund;
- A re-elected Liberal Government will put in place an aggressive strategy to recruit more healthcare professionals to New Brunswick by working with the New Brunswick Medical Society to actively recruit new doctors and develop better recruitment incentives to attract doctors to the province, particularly in rural areas. A re-elected Liberal Government will also work with partners to increase the number of seats at the medical training programs in Moncton and Saint John, develop and implement a nurse recruitment and retention strategy, enhance efforts to train and recruit more paramedics, provide more generous parental leave to medical professionals, leverage the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program as a means of recruiting more medical professionals from outside the country, and work with professional associations to expedite the certification process to allow outside professionals to practice as soon as possible.
Providing access to quality healthcare in all corners of New Brunswick is one of the most important public services that government provides. Through record investments and an overall health budget increase of 9.8 per cent since 2014, representing $246 million, the Liberal Government has demonstrated its commitment to quality and accessible healthcare. Beyond making significant investments to healthcare infrastructure around the province, as well as committing to maintain services in rural areas, the Gallant Liberals have made other significant improvements to New Brunswick’s healthcare system:
- The hiring of over 300 new doctors, meaning over 90 net new doctors were added between 2014-2018, bringing New Brunswick’s rate of access to family doctors up to 95 percent, the highest score in the country;
- The empowerment and addition of more healthcare professionals such as nurse practitioners, advanced care paramedics, and midwives;
- An investment of $75-million and a partnership with the federal government to create an aging pilot program in New Brunswick designed to improve the quality of life of seniors.