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Smart phones. They can make you antisocial. They can make you reliant on technology. They’re addictive. They can cause cancer (which, BTW they don’t!). These are just some of the ways we’re told phones are bad for us. But we don’t always hear about the many reasons why cell phones and all their technology are actually helpful — particularly for people in crisis or going though a difficult period in their life, like cancer.


Tuning out the world.


Let’s be real, we all have that one song that instantly puts us in a good mood and would easily be the theme song of our own reality show. 

Whether it’s blasting tunes at the gym to escape the inner voice telling you to quit or finding a way to escape the awkward “unsolicited advice” someone is giving you, smart phones give you the option to tune out the negative and tune into the positive. 

Apps! Apps! Apps!


That’s right! There are apps out there specifically designed for people coping with cancer.

Whether it’s dealing with chemo brain, tracking wellness goals, or learning how to meditate, this list of apps can help navigate going through cancer by lightening the load even a little bit or helping to practice self-care.

Talking to loved ones.


We all need to “phone a friend” once in a while. Those with cancer need it more.

There are so many unique facets to consider surrounding a cancer diagnosis — career, relationships, fertility and parenting are just a few of them. It’s easy to overlook the daily perks of having a smart phone, long-distance calling, or Facebook, but having the ability to connect with loved ones (regardless of where they are in the world) can be extremely helpful while going through treatment and beyond.

Keeping track of well… everything. 


Chemo brain: all the thinking and memory problems that often start after cancer treatment.

Those with cancer have tons of info being thrown at them on the regular. Doctor’s appointments. Treatment plans. Not to mention all the other things they have going on, like spending time with their families, being present around the kids or maintaining their mental health. And things like chemo brain don’t make remembering or making time for these things any easier. Needless to say, smart phones and platforms like Google Calendar are basically a necessity for staying on top of everything.

Connecting to online resources. 


Probably one of the best aspects of cell phone technology and the Internet is the ability to bring unlikely friends together. 

As great, loving, and supportive as they are, sometimes caregivers just don’t completely understand what a young person with cancer is really going through. There are a number of online communities out there to support people with cancer, but none like the Rethink Young Women’s Network (RYWN) which specifically supports young women with breast cancer by connecting them with other young women dealing with breast cancer. Smart phones can help young women stay connected to fabulous resources like RYWN wherever they go.

Connect with other young women with breast cancer by joining the Rethink Young Women’s Network.

January 10 2010, 5:45 PM

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail featured a preview of the upcoming trends for 2001 in its Style section.  Generally – not being of the mind that style and trendiness are synonymous – I could give two flying hoots about the latest trends. In fact, as I read about the “…cheeky bras over t-shirts…” gracing the runways, all I could think was, Will you please give me a break? Do I want to look like I have underwear dyslexia?

But I was reading the Style page for a reason: because when I picked up the paper, something caught my eye.  Or my eyebrow, I should say.  The banner on the front page encouraged me to check out the Style section to “get set for the year of the invisi-brow.”  Yes, the invisi-brow. As in, no eyebrows.  Models, apparently, are bleaching or otherwise disappearing the fuzzy little caterpillars that reside above each eye in what is giddily billed as “surely the edgiest make-up trend of the season.”  Yeah, okay… or, Surely the most inane, pointless and desperate trend of the season.  (Followed closely by those cheeky bras over t-shirts.)

What to expect next from these daring denizens of the fashion world? The year of the plucked-out eyelashes? Perhaps a celebration of the bikini-ready chemo-zillian, just in time for beach season? (Actually I confess: that one I did count as a cancer perk…saved so much money on waxing!)

I feel like writing to the Style reporters to inform them that, avante garde trend-setter that I clearly am, last year was my own personal “year of the invisi-brow” and frankly, it completely sucked.

Or, maybe I’m looking at this all wrong; maybe I’m just bitter because last year when I was bald and blinking dust out of my lash-less, brow-less eyes, nobody thought it was particularly chic. Perhaps I should cut this little clip out of the paper and pass it around the chemo ward on Thursday for all my browless chemo compadres and see what they think. After all, having the fashion world declare a common chemo side effect edgy and desirable might make people feel better about hair loss, if only in that one localized area.

And anyway, I should be looking for silver linings: it’s entirely possible I’ll be joining the hairless ranks once again – I’m shedding like a husky in July.

Though I cringe and get a little teary-eyed at the mere prospect of losing my hair and having that bald cancer-face stare back at me from the mirror again (telling me every day how sick I am) if it must be, so be it.  Time will tell. 

If I go bald, at least I know I’ll endure it.  Hell, I may even figure out a way to own it this time – anything to avoid it owning me again.

Encouragingly, my oncologist says it’s unlikely I’ll lose my hair completely, but she’s not cleaning my hairbrush every day, or seeing my pillow every morning… Mind you, I’ve got lots of it, so I count myself lucky; with what I’ve lost so far, some people would already be dealing with rather barren cranial terrain.

At least I’ve still got my thick, sumptuous, decidedly visible eyebrows – and trendy or not, I want them to stay exactly where they are.

Name: Heather Choate

Age: 32

Occupation: Mother first, marriage coach and author second

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 29

Breast cancer type: Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma

Breast cancer stage: 3-4 (couldn’t test due to the fact that I was pregnant, but cancer had spread to my lymph nodes)

Treatment: 4 rounds AC and left mastectomy while pregnant, then 12 rounds Taxol, Herceptin and Perjeta, 12 weeks radiation

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer:

I love having Nerf wars in my living room with my kids

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Something Just Like This

How did you discover your breast cancer?

Noticed a lump but thought it was from post-breastfeeding. Midwife checked it out and then it was biopsied.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

My thoughts immediatly turned to my 10 week old baby in utero and what this would mean for them.

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Why are you doing chemo don’t you care about your baby? (3 Doctors initially told me to abort the baby to save my life)

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

My husband Ben, my children, in-laws and friends and family.

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

The difficulties were blessings because they made me stronger.  The hardest thing to overcome wasn’t chemo or surgery or radiation, it was fear and learning to master my own thoughts and mind.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

I realized what was most important and what was not.  I learned that when I focus on the most important things, I am happier and thrive.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Listen to your own intuition, no matter what anyone says and focus on it with all you have.


To hear more about Heather’s inspiring story, you can order her book: Fighting For Our Lives at!

Last August I had to have an emergency root canal. It was in the morning on the day I was supposed to drive up to Muskoka for Stretch Heal Grow.

Jasmin: Are you sure you are going to be able to come up today?

Me: Yup. It’s just a root canal. How bad could it be?

Jasmin: It’s not good S. You can just come tomorrow morning. Leo and I can handle it.

Me: I am coming. See you later!

I got in my car at 3pm, in the pouring rain with my mouth still frozen and drove the three hours to Trillium Resort and Spa. The night before the retreat was always a treat. It was a time for the team to connect and it was a time to bear witness to the magic of Jasmin.

On the subject of magic, I should set the scene of this retreat for you: Imagine a picture-perfect spot in nature, on a picture-perfect lake (it’s called Devine Lake – I swear), with the cutest little cabins and cottages, a spa, yummy food, trails in the woods and a waterfall (not joking). There was no possible way a root canal was going to prevent me from waking up and drinking my coffee with Jasmin on the dock, before the magic happens.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Gordon

I arrived just in time for dinner and made my way through the muck and puddles to the lodge to meet Jasmin and Leo, the yoga teacher. Somewhere between my pasta and molten chocolate lava cake the biggest, brightest rainbow appeared right outside our window over Devine Lake. Right in our view. All three of us sat silently breathing it in. It was the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen. No matter how many times I see a rainbow in my lifetime, I am always floored. Completely shocked by the sheer beauty of it and puzzled by it’s existence. This time was different…I had the feeling this rainbow was meant to be right there for our eyes only. To set the intention for Stretch Heal Grow and to send our leader a sign that this retreat was bigger than her. That the universe was going to care about it for the next three days, and always.

Jasmin: This is a good omen ladies.

Yes. An omen…a magical sign.

I had no idea that this would be Jasmin’s last retreat but looking back it all makes some sense – even though her death makes no sense at all.

It was the 5th SHG and we were expecting 23 women to attend this retreat. 23 lucky women and those who attended and are reading this know exactly what I mean by lucky- perhaps a life changing experience…. There is NOTHING lucky about breast cancer, but there is something so special about SHG:

  • An opportunity to connect with other women going through what you are going through. Check.
  • An opportunity to get away from your life for a few days and focus on yourself. Check.
  • An opportunity to explore the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. Check.
  • An opportunity to work through some of the complicated feelings you are having about your life and cancer. Check.
  • An opportunity to meet a real-life unicorn and experience some magic. CHECK.

Jasmin was like a unicorn…

A heraldic representation of this animal, in the form of a horse with a lion’s tail and with a long, straight, and spirally twisted horn. A messenger of sorts, a proclaimer and person that announces. According to unicorn mythology, unicorns straddle the visible and invisible world. They have the power to transform themselves. Symbolically they represent being open to infinite possibilities that surround us (even when we can’t see them) and the wisdom to take advantage of them.

Jasmin transformed herself in the face of cancer. Her spiritual practice of yoga and meditation allowed her to stay open, loving and to find some peace in the darkness. She believed that you can face pain and tragedy AND grow to be the best version of yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I know for a fact that she put a ton of “work” into this practice, but the result was magic.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Gordon

One was captivated in her presence. I witnessed this over and over again working with her on Stretch Heal Grow and getting to know her as a friend. People gravitated towards her… it was like they wanted to bask in her spirit and her magic. They seemed to desperately want something she had… to unlock the secret to finding yourself again in the midst of pain and sorrow. She compassionately gave people the power to believe anything is possible.

At some point during the retreat last summer I looked in Jasmin’s eyes and knew she was suffering. She was more tired than usual and she was running off of pure adrenalin. I knew in my heart it might be the last time I would witness the magic with my own eyes.

But I also knew in that moment that ALL of us who were touched by her, knew her and loved her – we carry her secret.

What is required when we are faced with adversity is a leap of faith or a sense of something bigger than ourselves and opening up our heart to infinite possibilities. Sometimes, we can’t see what possibilities surround us, or that they exist – but they are there. There is a power we need to channel in order to believe in them and see them or feel them.

This power allows us to hold space for others even when we are suffering ourselves and it helps us to light up the world. Just like Jasmin. It’s precisely what she wanted.

SHG will feel bittersweet for sure this year, but it also marks the beginning of Jasmin’s beautiful legacy for young women coping with cancer. They will be big shoes to fill, but we have many dedicated feet and more women facing breast cancer who need a little magic in their lives.

Want to help send a young woman with breast cancer on the next Stretch Heal Grow? Donate HERE.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Gordon

November 30 2009, 1:06 PM

I was reading a book last night in which the narrator said something like, “Each day is someone’s first and someone’s last, but all those in between become just another day.” To which I thought: “What complete B.S. — surely it’s all the ones in between that count?”

Then, since my birthday is this week, I lay there in bed thinking about first days and last days. My first day was 38 years ago… When will my last day be? And that’s when the thought popped into my mind: “Wow, we should really celebrate my birthday this year because I may not have very many birthdays left.”

Um, whoa there. I just got fantastic results on my latest CT scans. Where did this party-crashing thought come from? From whence did this completely uninvited and so out of step with my little tango with cancer, icky thought emerge? This really, totally depressing, totally miserable little thought.

I mean — sick or not, old or young — of course it’s natural for people to entertain thoughts of their own demise from time to time. I myself have made a lifelong game of selecting my own funeral music. (‘She’s Gone’, by Hall & Oates, is the current frontrunner.) But this thought of having only a few birthdays left was just so… Melodramatic? Woeful? And yet so powerful.

At that moment my husband came in to the room, saw my face and immediately took me in his arms and asked me what was wrong. Through the tears that ensued, I managed to mumble the may-not-have-many-left thing into his shoulder. “Mais non!” He said, squeezing the bejeezus out of me (did I mention he’s French? and absolutely dashing, not that it’s relevant?) “What could make you think such a thing? You know that you will have as many birthdays as I know I will have — nobody can say how many they have left! Non! Those stupid spots are shrinking and that’s that!”

And, actually, a few sniffles later, that was that, because he has a way of comforting me and making me laugh with his stubborn refusal to let anything scare me so long as he can help it. He has a conviction that is deep and strong and it says “you are going to live” — and I hear it every time. He also has a whole sort of talk-to-the-hand thing that he does with the dark thoughts and it works like magic to quell my fears. At least it did this time. And probably will again next time, and the time after that.

So, I’ll be celebrating this birthday – of course I will, I love birthdays, mine or anyone else’s (when I remember them!)

First days, last days… they matter too. But it’s all the ones in between that shape a life.

And yes, maybe they’re numbered, but they’re numbered for everyone. All the more reason to enjoy them. Yesterday was just another in-between day, and look what happened: I read a book, got freaked out, and then wound up falling in love with my husband all over again. Or remembering why I fell in the first place.

So let’s hear it for in-between days, however many or few of them there may be, and for those we spend them with.

Photo: Artsy Vibes


Neutropenia occurs when the body’s white blood cell count is too low. 

When a person with cancer undergoes chemotherapy treatment to target and kill the fast-growing cancer cells in their body, the treatment can also kill the non-cancerous cells. Neutrophils – a type of white blood cell produced in the body’s bone marrow – imitate cancer cells by reproducing very quickly. Because of this, chemotherapy treatment often kills these cells too, leading to neutropenia. People with neutropenia are at a higher risk of infection (most commonly: mouth, lungs, throat, skin, or sinuses) because their body lacks the white blood cells needed to fight back. Doctors can tell if a person suffers from neutropenia by taking samples of their blood and calculating the absolute neutrophil count (ANC).

Common symptoms of neutropenia include:
– Nasal congestion
– Coughing/shortness of breath
– Fever
– Diarrhea
– Pain during urination
– Chills
– Sore throat

For more information on Neutropenia, visit this webpage or ask your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your risk.

Early Menopause

Sometimes, chemotherapy treatment can affect a woman’s ovaries, damaging them and (temporarily or permanently) stopping their menstrual cycle.

Going through early menopause can be devastating for women, particularly because of its affect on their ability to have children. Early menopause has many of the same symptoms as regular menopause (night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness). However, because of its unexpected nature the symptoms can be more severe.

Find out more about how to manage menopause’s symptoms HERE. And check out our “Ask the Expert” article on fertility and breast cancer to find out about the different options available to you.


Osteoporosis occurs when the body’s bone mass and bone density levels are below normal – increasing the likelihood of breaking a bone. 

Going through menopause puts you at risk for osteoporosis, or bone loss. So, if someone has undergone menopause early because of cancer treatment, they may be at risk for developing osteoporosis at a younger age. Bone loss means that your bones are generally weaker and at greater risk of breaking. The most common breaks that occur as a result of osteoporosis are in the spine, wrist, and hip.

For more information about osteoporosis and cancer or how to manage it, check out this article.


When fluid collects in the lymph nodes of the arm, hand, chest, back, or fingers and causes them to swell, it’s called lymphedema. 

Often times, when someone undergoes breast surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy), lymph nodes from the underarm will also be removed and tested for cancer. Sometimes this surgery and radiation therapy can cause some of the lymph vessels to become blocked and unable to release fluid. Lymphedema can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if the blockage is severe.

For more information on lymphedema, how to treat it, and how to reduce your risk, click HERE.

Cognitive Function

AKA Chemo Brain: Commonly described as a (long-term or short-term) lack of “mental sharpness” during or after cancer treatment. 

According to the American Cancer Society, many people with cancer have described “chemo brain” as:
– Memory lapses
– Difficulty concentrating
– Inability to multi-task
– Forgetting common words
– Taking longer to finish tasks
– Difficulty remembering details

Doctors and researchers have found that these brain function problems could be from a combination of many factors, like: cancer treatment drugs, low blood counts, sleep problems, depression, stress and anxiety, or the cancer itself.

To find out more about chemo brain and how to manage it, visit the American Cancer Society’s webpage. And don’t forget to check out our list of helpful apps for people going through cancer treatment!


Neuropathy is the result of damage to the peripheral nervous system within the body, affecting the way the brain communicates with various parts of the body.

Neuropathy that occurs after chemotherapy treatment is called “chemotherapy-associated peripheral neuropathy.” Since chemotherapy treatments and medications travel throughout the body, they have the ability to damage nerves. The peripheral nervous system is in control of the peripheral parts of the body (such as the hands and feet). When this system is damaged, it affects the brain and spinal cord’s ability to communicate with the body’s joints and muscles. This can result in pain, numbness, and a variety of other symptoms.

For more information on neuropathy, it’s symptoms, and which chemotherapy treatments can cause it, check out this article. 


Just how treatment side effects aren’t limited to hair loss, they also aren’t limited to physical effects.


Check out our blog series, “The Psychosocial,” to find out how cancer diagnoses and treatments can affect the mind just as much as the body. 

Name: Vesna Baric MacIntosh

Age: 45

Occupation: Massage Therapist/ X-ray Technologist (retired)

Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: 35

Breast cancer type: Estrogen Positive

Breast cancer stage: 4

Treatment: Right mastectomy 2007 followed by a year of chemo and radiation. For last 5 years – pamidronate and letrizole and Zometa for the last year

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that has nothing to do with cancer

I greet every day with a smile and rarely complain.

What’s your go-to pick-me-up song?

Any song that’s not sad.

How did you discover your breast cancer?

Breast self examination. I asked my Doctor for a mammogram and she said I don’t need one – then I reminded her that I performed mammos for a living.

What went through your head when you received your diagnosis?

Shock, fear and annoyance because the Doctor gave me a prognosis (I didn’t ask for any ‘numbers’ – he was the first and last Doctor to ever do so)

What’s the craziest thing someone said to you after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

“You don’t look like you have cancer!”

Who or what is/was your biggest source of support throughout your experience with cancer?

Every one who loves me – I have a large family and many friends

What is/was the most difficult part of being a young woman with breast cancer?

My children were 4, 5 and 6 when I was diagnosed.

What’s something unexpected you learned about yourself as a result of having breast cancer?

My grandma used to say “What’s better – 50 excellent years or 100 miserable ones?”.

In one sentence, what words of wisdom would you pass on to another young woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer? 

I never “battled” my cancer – nor did I make “friends” with it. I just say, “Today’s not the day.”

Wearing a swimsuit can already be an unsettling experience for many women. Wearing a swimsuit post-mastectomy? Try quadroopling that self-consciousness. But, at Rethink, we see breast cancer survivors thrivers as beautiful, courageous, amazing women who deserve to enjoy their fun in the sun. Period. So here’s a few suggestions of mastectomy-friendly swimwear brands that can get you one step closer to your own Baywatch experience.



Hapari Swimwear is a good one-stop shop for mastectomy-friendly swimwear and breast inserts (full or partial). All tankini and full-piece suits (and even some bikinis!) are designed with subtle breast pockets to fit Hapari’s “Illusions” silicone inserts and most prostheses.

*International shipping available


Nicola Jane

via Nicola Jane and Legs and Co

Founded in the UK, Nicola Jane pocketed swimsuits range in style (full, tankini, bikini), sizing (tall), type (chlorine resistant, tummy control), and designer options – encouraging women of all body types to feel comfortable in their own skin.

*International shipping available.



via and Lingerie Shop Reigate

Amoena‘s line of bilateral, pocketed swimwear offers a wide selection of swimsuits for those who are looking to cover it up and those wanting to show a little more skin.

*Visit their website to find a retailer near you




Anita pocketed swimsuits are designed with higher necklines and arm holes to provide scar tissue coverage and security for breast inserts and prostheses.

*Find a retailer near you


It Figures

via swimsuitsforall

It Figures! prides itself in providing comfortable, flattering post-mastectomy and body-shaping swimwear for women of all ages.

*Also available at Sears Canada


Land’s End

via PWR News Media

Land’s End wide selection of mastectomy-friendly swimwear provide sewn-in soft cups and prosthesis pockets (no underwire), as well as higher cut armholes and necklines for maximum comfort and security.

*International shipping available


Ultimately, do what makes you feel good! Whether that’s wearing prostheses, not wearing prostheses, showing your scars or covering them up.

You are strong. You are beautiful. And you deserve to feel…

Let’s be real. It’s very easy to get tongue-tied after someone in your life has been diagnosed with cancer. What do you say? How do you let them know you’re there for them? We reached out out to our network of young women with breast cancer and asked this question:
When they maybe didn’t have the words to say, what are some of the best ways people in your life have showed you love/support while having breast cancer? 
Here are some of the top responses…

Cook a Meal

Bringing over ready-made meals to be eaten now or frozen for later can easily relieve the pressures of having to set aside time for cooking, allowing them to spend that time doing other things that make them happy.


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.



Is it fair to say most people don’t love to clean? And when someone’s going through chemo treatment, it is probably the last thing on his/her mind. Still, there’s something peaceful about coming home to a clean house. So: grab a mop, clean the dishes, do a load of laundry, and be a peacemaker.


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.


Send a Check-in Text Message

Sending something like, “Just checking in…” or “How’s today going?” are a good way of showing you care and that they’re not alone.


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.


(Snail) Mail a Card

A good old fashioned card is a short-and-sweet way to let someone know you’re thinking about them – especially if you’re not in the same city. Who said you can’t still use snail mail? Pair that with a gift-card to their favourite restaurant or to the grocery store and you’re golden!


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.



Stopping by to babysit (or dog-sit) while your friend/loved one takes a much needed break or goes on a long-awaited date with their partner… it’s the little things.


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.


Create a Care Package

Care packages are a thoughtful, easy way to show someone that you care and are thinking about them. Fill it with some of their favourite snacks, warm fuzzy socks, jelly beans to get them through chemo, or whatever else you can think of.

Not the best DIY-er? Don’t fret. Check out Rethink’s Give-A-Care line to create a perfect care package for your loved one.


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.


Be a Chauffeur

Going to doctor’s appointments and picking up prescriptions are things they have to do but don’t necessarily have to do alone. Swing by and pick them up. Or, better yet, pick up the prescriptions for them, if you can!


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.


Spend the Day

Spend the day sitting with them on the couch, watching their favourite TV shows or movies, playing cards or whatever else you know makes them smile. You don’t always have to be talking, just being there can make a world of difference!


For more information and tips and tricks on how to show those in your life with cancer that you care, check out our YouTube series on How To Support A Loved One With Cancer.

In 2015, we made a post on the Canadian Cancer Society’s predictive stats for breast cancer. Now that it’s 2017, we thought you might want the DL on the latest stats regarding breast cancer in Canada. So, here’s an update!

In 2016, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (now joined with the Canadian Cancer Society) posted their most recent predictive statistics for breast cancer in Canada. Overall, what they estimate is that there haven’t been many changes in overall breast cancer incidence and mortality rates in Canada. Minor increases of incidence were seen in some age groups (including the under 40 range). However, this is mostly accounting for population growth, rather than an increase in overall breast cancer rates. And the estimation of 4,900 breast cancer deaths (in Canadian women) was the same as the estimated deaths in 2014.

Is this good? Well, yes, it’s good to know that we aren’t seeing higher rates of breast cancer in women. But is it bad too? Well, you always want to see improvements. We’ve seemed to hit a stalemate for breast cancer survival in Canada – with the 5-year survival rate remaining steadily at 87% since 2011.

Breast Cancer is steadily the top cancer type found in women in Canada. In 2016, it was estimated that 25,700 women (130.1 per 100,000) would be diagnosed. However, the rates of breast cancer in young women is exceptionally low. While 17% of breast cancers were expected to be diagnosed in women under 50, most of these (13%) were in women between the ages of 40 and 49.

This means that only 4-5% of diagnoses were predicted to occur in women under the age of 40. 

The overall breast cancer mortality rate in Canada is the lowest it has been since 1950. After its peak in 1986, the mortality rate has fallen 44%. This is likely due to improved overall cancer control, including  increased mammography screening and the use of more effective therapies following breast cancer surgery.

However, while women under 50 make up a smaller portion of overall breast cancer incidences in Canada, their rates of death are higher.

The burden of a breast cancer diagnosis remains heavy on women under the age of 50. In 2016, it was estimated that 12% of cancer-related deaths in the over 60 age range were due to breast cancer. However, for women ages 30-59, 22% of these deaths were from breast cancer.

Cancer is still the leading cause of premature death in young adults and breast cancer is still the second leading cause of death in females (under age 50) next to lung cancer as measured by potential years of life lost (PYLL). PYLL accounts for average life expectancy and gives more weight to deaths that occur among younger people. With regard to the most common cancers in women and men, the PYLL from female breast cancer (137,700, up from 94,700 in 2015) reflected that women die from breast cancer at relatively younger ages. For some context, the PYLL for prostate cancer was 24,000 (down from 35,600 in 2015), reflecting that these deaths occur more in the older age groups, according to Canadian Cancer Statistics.

The 5-year survival rate for young women with breast cancer is steadily improving. However, it is still the second lowest among all the age groups:

  • Ages 15-39 = 85%
  • Ages 40-49= 90%
  • Ages 50-59 = 89%
  • Ages 60-69 = 90%
  • Ages 70-79 = 87%
  • Ages 80-99 = 79%

Research shows that breast cancers in young women tend to be more advanced and more aggressive. While there has been an increased focus on screening for young women who are known to be high risk, most women under 50 are not actively targeted for breast cancer screening, clinical trials, or research across the country.

What does this mean for the future of young women?

It means we STILL need to address treatment and care issues for young women in Canada.


  • Delays in diagnosis
  • More advanced cancers at diagnosis
  • Higher mortality rates
  • Low participation in clinical trials
  • Lack of age-appropriate care
  • Concerns around social support during cancer treatment
  • Late effects of treatment
  • Recurrence
  • Longer-term, psychosocial concerns/factors

Rethink Breast Cancer will continue to be at the forefront in addressing these concerns through helping young people asses their risk, funding research studies like Baby Time, providing savvy education and awareness so that women are able to take their health in their own hands, like our Your Man Reminder campaign and provide targeted resources to meet the psychosocial needs of young women with breast cancer globally through programs, like LiveLaughLearn. Stay tuned!