Aboriginal women are being encouraged to have a free and potentially life-saving breast screen.
Through a series of events and activities, community leader and breast cancer survivor Robin Payne will highlight the importance of breast screening and discuss barriers to participation that exist for Aboriginal women.
Over the past year, participation in breast screening amongst Aboriginal women in NSW has increased from 37% in April 2015, to 41% in April 2016.
While this remains significantly fewer than non-Aboriginal women aged 50-74, BreastScreen NSW hopes to continue this positive trend by encouraging more Aboriginal women to be screened every two years.
Community consultation by BreastScreen NSW shows that Aboriginal women face specific barriers to participating in cancer screening programs. In the Aboriginal community, cancer is largely regarded as a death sentence and there can be a sense of apprehension about the possibility of pain or discomfort while having the x-ray. This can result in a sense of fear and anxiety about the process of screening as well as the possibility of receiving a positive result.
Ms Payne, a 61-year-old Kamilaroi woman from Dubbo, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 after a routine breast screen. Robin had her breast removed, but thanks to early detection, she is fully recovered and five years later, is a strong advocate for breast cancer screening in the Aboriginal community.
She has since initiated the first Aboriginal cancer support group in NSW, offering moral support to members of the community living with a cancer diagnosis.
Ms Payne emphasises the importance of Aboriginal women getting regular breast screens.
“Breast screening is important for Aboriginal women as it will keep our mob alive a lot longer,” says Robin. “Cancer doesn’t only affect you, it affects your family, friends, relatives and the whole community – so early detection is the best detection.”
Director, Cancer Screening and Prevention at the Cancer Institute NSW, Sarah McGill, explained that early detection is one of the most important factors in determining the survival and recovery of a woman from breast cancer.
Robin encourages all Aboriginal women to book in for a breast screen. As she didn’t have any symptoms at the time of her diagnosis, without her breast screen, her cancer would not have been detected until it was much more advanced.
“I’m very glad I got a mammogram when I did. It picked up my cancer before it was life threatening, which gave me more time to spend with family and friends,” says Robin.
BreastScreen NSW offers free mammograms through over 200 fixed and mobile screening locations. Group bookings can be arranged for women, their family and friends. To find your nearest BreastScreen NSW service, visit breastscreen.nsw.gov.au or phone 13 20 50.