The Screen For Life Mobile Unit, a full screening clinic that travels the province will be on Six Nations this month during Community Awareness Week, from May 12 – 22 – offering free mammograms.
In the indigenous community, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women. Doctors normally recommend all women between the ages of 50-75 years have a mammogram done every two years.
However if you have been identified as high risk for developing breast cancer; in the case of women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancers – or have been identified as carrying the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene – doctors recommend breast screening through yearly MRI’s starting at the age of 30.
Dr. Andrea East, a family practitioner at the Gane:Yohs Medical Clinic in Ohsweken and Regional Aboriginal Cancer Lead for Cancer Care Ontario says, “First Nations women were diagnosed at a more advanced stage of breast cancer than other Ontario women between 1995 and 2004. The survival experience was comparable with all women when the cancer was diagnosed at a later stage. However when First Nations women are diagnosed earlier, fewer of them lived for five years beyond their five year survival rate compared to non First Nations women. This is thought to do with a lack of follow up care, issues with accessing transportation and cultural irrelevance when attending cancer care clinics.”
East says this is why it is such a blessing to the Six Nations and New Credit area that the Screen For Life Mobile Detection Unit is coming to the territory. East says the Mobile Unit will be coming to Six Nations/New Credit twice a year every year from now on.
Early detection is critically important for breast cancer because the earlier it is detected the more successful treatment is. Mammography has come along so far doctors can now detect breast cancer cells before they fully birth into cancer, something called a pre-cancer or Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.
Detecting breast cancer at this stage can literally be life saving. Cure rates for women diagnosed with DCIS are 98%. In these cases early detection completely changes the course of treatment, sometimes not requiring chemotherapy, radiation or hormone drugs at all.
Other risk factors for breast cancer include obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Because indigenous women are prone to metabolic syndrome and diabetes, which in turn has a direct impact on body fat, this increases risk factors for indigenous women.
As risk factors for developing breast cancer increases with age, doctors recommend women continue to be screened every two to three years until the age of 75.
If you would like to have a mammogram while the Screen For Life Mobile Unit is on Six Nations you can book a time by calling 1-855-338-3131.