OHSWEKEN – A mobile cancer screening detection unit is here in Ohsweken as part of this years’ Community Awareness Week.
One of the most important safety precautions someone can do in regards to cancer is finding out early on what your risks may be, getting screen early and identifying any concerns that arise. The Screen-For-Life Coach offers three different types of screenings — breast cancer, cervical cancer and colon cancer.
“These three screenings find problems early, before you feel them and before you notice symptoms,” said Alyssa Higginson, the cancer screening co-ordinator for the regional cancer program. “If you wait until you notice symptoms then chances are that the problem is a little more advanced. With screening, in some respects, we’re able to prevent cancer altogether.”
The coach is a 45-foot-long bus which has a state-of-the-art digital mammography suite, two change rooms, a waiting room and an exam room. It is also wheelchair accessible.
“It’s wheelchair accessible, but those in wheelchairs or those that can’t walk may need some extra help manoeuvring around the bus,” said Higginson. “We can definitely make it work for everybody.”
Higginson said the program increases access to cancer screening for anyone who has barriers.
“We want to make sure everyone has equal access to early screening,” she said. “So we bring the coach here to community awareness week to ensure that everyone at the event is able to access breast, cervical and colorectal screening.
“If you get a pap smear done and we find abnormal cells, we can get rid of them before they even turn into cancer,” she said. “Same thing with colon screening – if you go for a colonoscopy or complete a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) we can find irregularities and take of them before anything goes wrong.”
A Fecal Occult Blood Test is simple, takes minutes, and can be done in the privacy of your own home. Testing kits can be picked up at Gane: Yohs and once complete dropped off at the laboratory. Results will be mailed to you in a confidential manner and any positive results forwarded to your family doctor.
“With an FOBT you put a little sample of your stool on the provided card a few times a week and then drop it off,” said Higginson. “It gets tested and you’ll be notified if something was found and you need further testing. Its all about being preventative and finding things early — even colon cancer is 90 per cent treatable when found early.”
The coach offers a full mammogram machine and it provides the same quality of service that you would receive anywhere else. Higgingson said that although some level of discomfort is expected, it all depends on the individual and that the staff on the coach does their best to make it as comfortable as possible.
“It can be pretty scary for some women if they are stressed or if they think it’s going to hurt,” said. “The staff on board do their best to make it as painless as possible and guide you through the process.”
Darlene LaForme, a community member, was screened for breast cancer. Following the tour LaForme told us about her experience.
“This was my second time getting screened on the coach,” she said. “It definitely is a good squeeze, but you just have to breathe through it. It’s a really quick test.
When it comes to your health it’s good to know for sure where you stand.
“I come get it done because it’s important to be proactive about cancer,” said LaForme. “I have breast cancer in my family and I just want to make sure I’m doing the best thing for myself and family.”
The coach will be in the community until next week. This Thursday and Friday it will be at the Gane: Yohs Community Health Centre and Monday May 30 it will be at Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services. All screenings are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“All you need to do a test is a valid heath card and fit the eligibility requirements,” said Higgingson. “The coach will be back in the community in November.”
Mobile coach.jpg: A sample Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). This is one of the screening methods the mobile screening unit uses to detect early cancer.
Mobile coach 2.jpg: Community members, staff and volunteers of the mobile screening unit were participating in screenings last Friday, May 20. From left to right: Darlene LaForme, Deborah Martin, Tammy Hill, Lacey VanEvery (RN), Carrie Claxton (MRTM, CBI) and Alyssa Higginson.