Multicultural Victorian women missing out on breast screens

21 May 2013

Actress Angelina Jolie cut her risk of breast cancer considerably this year, but interest in preventative cancer screens is not high in migrant women.

Just one in three Victorian women from some non-English speaking backgrounds are having regular breast screens according to BreastScreen Victoria.

The figure is well below the general Victorian screening participation rate of 55% for women aged 50-69.

As BreastScreen Victoria begins its third round of a campaign to increase screening rates particularly in women aged 50-69, BreastScreen Victoria CEO Vicki Pridmore says that it is critical that all Victorian women are given the opportunity to have a potentially life-saving mammogram.

Data released by BreastScreen Victoria shows that women from German and Dutch-speaking homes are the least likely to be screened (33% and 34% participation rates respectively) followed by Tagalog (39%), Sinhalese (42%) and Mandarin (42%).

Ms Pridmore says these figures are concerning and she urges all women, no matter their background, to take advantage of the free service, with screens conducted by a woman and taking only 10 minutes every two years.

"The results of the BreastScreen Victoria analysis are worrying as there are 11 nationalities, a mix of Asian and European, with a non-English speaking background falling below the state average," she says.

"To help us reach these women, BreastScreen Victoria is asking members of each community to spread the word about the importance of regular screening.

"It's important to note that BreastScreen Victoria provides in-language materials and an interpreter service where required to help all women access our service," Ms Pridmore says.
One woman taking up this challenge is CEO of the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre Rosemary Kelada, who has an Italian-Egyptian background and is herself a breast cancer survivor.

"I got breast cancer but it didn't mean the end of the world. It has been hard, for me and for my family, but what I am getting out of that experience is the firm belief that it is now my role to spread the message about the importance of getting screened," she says.

"Through my work I know there are many women in the 50-69 age bracket who do not speak English. I would urge family members and members of the community to stress the importance of breast screening."

While screen rates for many nationalities were low, the research also showed some nationalities excelling.

"When we look at the results from the other end of the spectrum, what's pleasing is that we have Turkish and Vietnamese women above the state average at 68% and 66% respectively," Ms Pridmore says.

The BreastScreen Victoria data analysis is taken from the 2010 - 2012 screening period.

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