For many immigrant women, having their breasts screened for cancer may come with many barriers.
Cultural norms, for example, may stop them from going to male practitioners, leading them to avoid any type of screening. Others may prevent women from examining themselves – a crucial step in early detection of breast cancer.
Because of these barriers, the Scarborough Breast Health Community Action Project has launched a new breast cancer program to improve participation for women who would otherwise have limited knowledge about the disease.
“[This project] is to educate those out there about breast screening and prevention for low-income and ethnic women,” says Joy D’Rozario, a primary healthcare nurse with West Hill Community Services.
That group is working on the project with St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Centre as the lead agency – receiving $195,413 in funding from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The funding will be used to implement early detection workshops, breast cancer awareness and prevention in places such as housing complexes, senior’s recreation centres and supportive housing throughout Scarborough.
According to Anne Crasto, of West Hill Community Services, the St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Centre did this project before and found that specifically in the South Asian population, it wasn’t a practice in their own countries to have breast screening done. They also found language was a huge barrier.
“That’s why the initiative took place,” Crasto says. They have peer leaders speaking the language of the actual population.”
The program targets immigrant and low-income women from Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Somali, Tamil and Urdu-speaking communities.
Crasto says they intend to ” use individuals who are peer leaders in their own communities and cultural backgrounds to teach them as well as escort them for specific screening.”
The staff at West Hill Community Services comes from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
“We will be helping with advice, support and promoting the project and we will probably offer it to all our clients,” Crasto says.
“There is … sensitivity for some cultures in regards to gender,” says Crasto, pointing to the idea that some women would prefer to have a female practitioner helping them.
As well in some cultures, women from these communities don’t have themselves screened or know how to do self-examinations, for in their cultures they are not to touch themselves.
“It’s all about raising awareness and educating them in regards to this … for preventive reasons,” says Crasto. ” As soon as you raise that awareness in their families, that will be brought down and hopefully have a rippling effect with their children.”