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Lack of breast ultrasound clinics in B.C. could leave cancer undetected


Dr. Paula Gordon says her clinic on West Broadway receives 1,600 calls a day, the majority from patients looking for a screening breast ultrasound.

The uptick, she says, is from a new awareness among British Columbians who have dense breasts.

Patients who have mammograms in B.C. are told the density of their breasts, and those with a higher tissue density, known as a Type C or D density, should book a follow-up ultrasound.

"Not only are women at risk of their cancer being missed on their mammogram—we call that ‘masking’ when their cancer gets hidden in the dense tissue—but women with dense breasts are at a higher risk of getting breast cancer, so that's the double whammy," said Dr. Gordon, a clinical professor in the department of radiology at the University of British Columbia.

Tumours are difficult to detect in women with dense breasts, making an ultrasound a necessity.

More than 40 per cent of Canadian women over the age of 40 have dense breasts.

“The issue is there is not enough places doing screen breast ultrasound,” she said.

In 2022, her clinic performed almost 4,000 screening breast ultrasounds. Last year it did more than 4,300.

They’ve since had to stop taking on new patients, as they were booking appointments out as far as January 2025.

That’s made it difficult for people like Jen Murtagh to find access to this type of health care.

“The government of B.C. is saying, ‘we’ll pay for your follow up ultrasounds,’ but the thing is there is no ultrasounds available,” said Murtagh.

The Richmond mother found out she had dense breasts three years ago after her routine mammogram.

She received an ultrasound to rule out breast cancer, but now it’s time for another checkup and the booking process is much more difficult.

“I think a lot of women are going to unnecessarily die in this province and this country if we don’t have these ultrasounds available,” she said.

CTV News reached out to the health ministry, but did not receive a response back by deadline. Top Stories

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