11/24/2013 03:25 EST | Updated 01/24/2014 05:59 EST

Half of Quebec women over 50 avoid mammograms, says cancer society

When Suzie Lamoureux had her first mammogram eight years ago, it detected a cancerous tumour that she thinks would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

“Even though mine was big, it couldn't be felt by hand,” says Lamoureux.

An estimated 6,000 Quebecers will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and the Canadian Cancer Society has launched its annual campaign to encourage even more women to get checked.

Women between the ages of 50 and 69 are eligible for the province's free screening program, though many don’t use them.

However, Lamoureux believes that test helped save her life because she immediately started a treatment plan and is now cancer-free.

“God knows where I would be now if it hadn't been for that program,” said Lamoureux.

The Canadian Cancer Society spokesman AndréBeaulieu says hundreds of thousands of women eligible for the province's free screening program, aren't using it.

“Of the million women aged 50 to 69 only 600,000 are currently registered in the program. So it means 400,000 women in Quebec alone don't go for regular mammograms,” says Beaulieu.

Radiologist Dr. Suzanne Drouin says early detection can make a difference.

“If they come for the screening and if they ever are unfortunate enough to have a cancer, it's going to be found when it's smaller and at a lower stage,” says Drouin.

Lamoureux says she hopes her story will encourage other women to act now and potentially catch a cancerous tumour, before it spreads.

“Don't be afraid and go. It's worth going,” says Lamoureux.