Community Classroom

Behind the Screen: The History and Politics of Canadian Breast Cancer Imaging

Graphic illustration of a woman getting a mammogram

Part of the Gender, Health and Social Justice Speaker Series

A talk by Jennifer Fraser, March 25, 2022.

Breast cancer screening is a central feature of cancer control and an important part of women’s health. In addition to improving cancer diagnosis and guiding clinical care, regular breast screening also helps health officials identify emerging health trends and decide how resources should be allocated. Indeed, the black and white images that appear on digital mammography displays represent more than just breast tissue – they are cornerstones of cancer detection and important evidentiary regimes in rationalizing health policy and planning. This presentation will chart the history of Canadian breast cancer screening devices, focusing particularly on the colonial genealogies of these technologies, the scientific and political rationales underpinning their creation, and their enduring impact on how medical professionals and health systems “see” breast cancer and decide who should (and should not) have access to important forms of preventative care.

Jennifer Fraser is an upper-year PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and a Research Assistant at King’s College London’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. She is interested in the politics of global cancer registration, and how populations within the global north and global south have redefined how we understand and represent chronic disease at a systems level. You can find her on Twitter @JennFraser2.

Portrait photo of Jennifer Fraser, the presenter

The Gender, Health and Social Justice Speaker Series is jointly presented by Dr. Whitney Wood, VIU’s Canada Research Chair in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health, and Dr. Erika Dyck, Canada Research Chair in Health and Social Justice at the University of Saskatchewan. It was organized by Dr. Karissa Patton, a VIU Canada Research Chair Post-Doctoral Fellow, and Letitia Johnson, a PhD Candidate from the University of Saskatchewan.


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