Effort to cut cancer rates

LOCAL Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are being encouraged to take part in regular breast screening to help drive down rates of cancer.

The Prime Minister’s 2016 Closing the Gap report released this week highlighted that cancer death rates were increasing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Between 2006 and 2013, there was a 10 per cent increase in cancer death rates for Indigenous patients and a 6 per cent decline for non-Indigenous Australians,” the report notes.

BreastScreen Victoria says participation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women remain below the state average of 54 per cent, but new culturally sensitive programs are making the screening process easier.

“It’s important to remember that early detection of breast cancer improves outcomes for women,” BreastScreen Victoria chief executive officer Vicki Pridmore said.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. The mortality rate is also higher due to diagnoses at advanced stages, BreastScreen Victoria says.

The Department of Health recommends women aged 50-74 without breast cancer symptoms have a screening mammogram every two years. 

Lisa Pearson, a nurse at Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative, said her organisation was involved in an initiative with the Cancer Council to help women receive the recommended screenings.

BDAC was trying to create an environment where people felt comfortable talking about the issue, Ms Pearson said.

“It’s about getting the conversation started sometimes. Early intervention is extremely important,” she said. 

“We’d love to hear from women who would like to be part of this project.”

Transport to breast screening appointments could be arranged, Ms Pearson said.

For more information about BDAC’s services, call 5442 4947. 

To make a breast-screening appointment, go to breastscreen.org.au or call 132 050.