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Cancer Prevention

Cancer prevention and screening

Everyone has a certain risk of developing cancer. An estimated 2 in 5 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and about 1 in 4 will die from cancer. (Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021). Your risk increases or decreases depending on the choices you make and the ways in which your environment supports you.

There are three big ways you can lower your risk of cancer – healthier lifestyles, keeping immunizations up-to-date, and routine cancer screening.

Reduce your risk by

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If all of us adopted healthier lifestyles, we could prevent about 2 out of 3 cancers in Canada¹. Changing your lifestyle to reduce your cancer risk can seem hard, but beginning with small steps every day can make a big difference. Smoking, poor dietary habits, and physical inactivity account for more than 50 per cent of all cancers in Ontario².

While you can’t change some things, like your age or your family history, there are many factors you may be able to control.

Up to 50 per cent of cancers could be prevented by a healthy lifestyle (e.g., being smoke-free, being active, drinking less alcohol, and eating well) and by avoiding exposures to cancer-causing substances at work and in the environment.



There are many vaccines that can help to prevent cancers. Keeping your immunizations up-to-date is an important part of reducing your cancer risk.

Cancer Screening

Early stages of cancer can be difficult for you to see or feel, so regular screening can find some cancers sooner. Early detection can improve your chances of survival. Visit your health-care provider to talk about screening for breast, cervical, colorectal and other cancers.

Get Checked for Cancer

Organized screening programs may find cancer earlier, leading to better health outcomes. Cancer screening detects precancerous changes, or cancer at an early stage when there is a better chance of treating it successfully. Screening is for people who do not have any cancer symptoms. There are three Provincial Cancer screening programs in Ontario; Ontario Cervical Cancer Screening Program (OCSP), Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), and the Colon Cancer Check Program (CCC).

Why is it important to screen for cancer?

  • 1 in 9 women in Canada are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 168 women is expected to develop cervical cancer during her lifetime
  • 1 in 14 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime.

Early detection saves lives, keeping up to date with your cancer screening is an important step in protecting your health.

Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP)

Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP)

Regular breast cancer screening can find cancer when it is small and there is a better chance of treating it successfully. Screening with a mammogram is available for women aged 50-74 and is usually done every 2 years. Learn more about breast cancer screening.

Ontario Cervical Cancer Screening Program (OCSP)

Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular screening, appropriate and timely follow-up of abnormal Pap test results and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization. It is important to make regular screening a priority. Screening with a Pap test is usually done every 3 years for women aged 25-69. Learn more about cervical cancer screening.

Colon Cancer Check (CCC)

Colon Cancer Check (CCC)

When colorectal cancer is caught early enough through screening, someone with the disease has a 9 out of 10 chance of being cured. Colon cancer screening begins at 50 years of age for average-risk individuals. Screening is usually done with a stool test every 2 years. Learn more about colon cancer screening.

How to set up your cancer screening

Talk to your primary care provider. A healthcare provider must order the tests or send a referral for you. To get the test or screening appointment set up, you can:

  • Talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner
  • Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213 if you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner
  • Contact your health centre or nursing station if you live in a First Nation community
  • Looking for a local Primary Care Provider? Learn more.


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