Despite reductions in mortality rates, breast cancer remains the most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in Canadian women. Organized screening programs have contributed to the decrease in breast cancer mortality by allowing for early diagnosis and treatment. The diagnostic phase following an abnormal screen has implications for patient well-being, clinical practice, and resource management in health care. We present data from British Columbia that show that improvements at the diagnostic phase are necessary in order to capitalize on the benefit offered by breast cancer screening. The results are discussed in the context of population and public health practice, and recommendations for further study and improvement of the efficiency of the diagnostic phase are suggested.
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