Shawls provide cultural connection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women during breast screening

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who attend a breast screening appointment in the ACT today will be gifted an indigenous-designed bamboo shawl as part of an initiative to encourage more women to have mammograms.

In response to a lower breast screening uptake among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, BreastScreen ACT has adapted the Beautiful Shawls Day concept from their Victorian colleagues.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith today presented the first cultural screening shawl created by local Aboriginal artist, Kristie Peters.

“These beautiful shawls provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with a culturally safe and appropriate support when receiving a breast screen. They will help women to feel more comfortable during the screening process and hopefully encourage more women to come forward for a screening,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

“It is really important for all women to have regular mammograms, but particularly for people who are more likely to be impacted by breast cancer including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women over the age of 40. Breast cancer is the most comment cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are 1.2 times more likely to die from the disease.

“Today’s event is a great example of how culturally safe and appropriate health services can empower women to access health services and make important decisions for their own health,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

Last year, just over 51 per cent of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were screened for breast cancer via the BreastScreen ACT program, compared to 57 per cent of the general female population.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, this trend is reflected nationally with 38 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 50–74 getting a mammogram in 2017–2018, compared with 54 per cent for non-Indigenous women.

“Improving the uptake in breast screening gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women a greater chance of finding cancers earlier. This leads to better health outcomes and potentially saves lives.

“BreastScreen ACT have done a fantastic job in bringining this inativie to the ACT and I thank them for their ongoing commitment and contribution to increasing awareness in our community,” said Minister Stephen-Smith

Quotes attributable to Christy Fox, BreastScreen ACT:

“BreastScreen ACT wishes to thank the Canberra Hospital Foundation and CALLEO for its support for these stunning shawls that will make a difference to women’s lives.

“These shawls not only provide appropriate coverage for such a personal experience, but the beautiful Indigenous design gives a cultural connection and a sense of cultural safety to women who come for routine screening, which can be a potentially life-saving service.”

Quote attributable to Helen Falla CEO, Canberra Hospital Foundation:

“The beautiful shawls are a wonderful expression of community generosity, wrapping our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women in comfort and cultural connection”, said Helen Falla, CEO Canberra Hospital Foundation. “We are grateful to play a role in encouraging participation in breast screening.”

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