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New initiative encouraging cancer conversation in Indigenous communities

Rachael Knowles -

Cancer Australia is encouraging conversations around cancer and its impact within First Australian communities.

The organisation's program, Yarn for Life, is a nation-first, brand new initiative aimed at normalising discussions to limit the emotional impacts on family, friends and communities affected by cancer.

Cancer Australia CEO Dr Helen Zorbas said the program aims to address the disparities in the occurrence and outcomes of cancer that Indigenous Australians experience.

"Cancer affects not only those diagnosed with the disease but also their families, carers, Elders and community," Dr Zorbas said.

The disease is the second leading cause of death amongst Indigenous Australians, who are 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than non-Indigenous Australians.

Yarn for Life has been created by and with Indigenous Australians and promotes open and honest conversations.

The multi-faceted Indigenous health promotional program shares personal experiences from survivors and families affected by cancer.

Indigenous woman and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Monash University, Professor Jacinta Elston said identifying cancer in its early stages was the best chance for stopping the disease and that the program emphasises the value of emotional support during this time.

"Yarn for Life aims to reduce feelings of shame and fear associated with cancer and highlights the importance of normalising conversation around cancer and encouraging early detection of the disease," Professor Elston said.

Australia's first Aboriginal surgeon, University of Newcastle's Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, said it is also important for health services to create culturally safe spaces.

"Yarn for Life seeks to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in screening programs, discuss cancer with their doctor or health care worker openly, and if cancer is diagnosed, complete their cancer treatment," Dr Kong said.

"For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, health and connection to land, culture community and identity are intrinsically linked. Optimal care that is respectful of, and responsive to, the cultural preferences, sensitivities, needs and values of patients, is critical to good health care outcomes."

Yarn for Life is supported by two consumer resources that highlight important and influential moments in a patient's cancer journey.

The campaign will feature television, radio and social media resources which will be intended for sharing with family, friends and community.

More information can be found here:


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