"Nobody goes 'hooray' about getting a mammogram, but it's important"

Social entrepreneur Dr Catherine Barrett shares her personal experience of BreastScreen Victoria's dedicated LGBTI+ screening sessions, Rainbow Rose, encouraging LGBTI+ people to participate.  

A community leader and passionate advocate, Catherine has positively impacted so many lives through her advocacy for older people and LGBTI+ communities. Challenging ageism through Celebrating Ageing, Catherine has empowered older LGBTI+ people through Alice's Garage and supported people through the coronavirus pandemic with the Kindness Pandemic project.

Catherine is committed to ensuring health services are an inclusive space where LGBTI+ people feel safe and has worked alongside BreastScreen Victoria for more than ten years to help achieve this goal.   

Dr Catherine Barrett.

"LGBTI+ people are under-screened and have different needs. There's a gap that needs to be met, and I want to support BreastScreen Victoria to get there," Catherine said. "Being a part of this work is something I'm committed to because some LGBTI+ people were saying they don't feel comfortable and safe."

All BreastScreen Victoria clinics aim to provide an LGBTI+ accessible and inclusive service. There are regular, dedicated LGBTI+ screening sessions called Rainbow Sessions. At David Jones' Rose Clinic in Melbourne, Rainbow Rose provides a bit of extra support or have screening questions. Appointments are free and take 10 minutes with a female radiographer. You don't need a GP's referral or Medicare card to make an appointment with BreastScreen Victoria. 

Catherine has taken part in two Rainbow Rose sessions and had a great experience.  

"I got together with a heap of my friends, had a mammogram and then went to get dumplings. We made it a fun thing. It felt very validating to do something we knew was good for our health. It felt really good," she said.

With a family history and a close friend who has been through breast cancer, Catherine became very aware of the importance of screening and early detection.  

"Having family and friends go through breast cancer completely changed my perspective. It made me realise that having a mammogram might be uncomfortable for a few seconds, but it is a way better option than not having a mammogram and finding out you have breast cancer too late. We do things every day that are more uncomfortable. Weeding my garden causes more discomfort than my mammogram!"

Starting back in 2018, Rainbow Sessions aimed to create a space where the LGBTI+ community had extra support, where people could get together with a friend or group of friends to ask questions and screen.

"When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the receptionist popping her head over the desk and smiling," Catherine said. "She knew that LGBTI+ people were coming through the door and was very welcoming. It felt like a really safe space, and I didn't have to worry about whether anybody might be looking twice." 

"When I had my mammogram at the Rainbow Rose session, I felt like I'd had a mammogram for me and the whole community. Nobody goes 'hooray' about getting a mammogram, but it's important. I love my life and want to live a long and happy one. The Rainbow Rose sessions make the whole process feel safe and a bit more fun." 

BreastScreen Victoria's next Rainbow Rose session is on Thursday, 27 May, at the Rose Clinic at David Jones in Melbourne's CBD.  

To check your eligibility and to register, visit Rainbow Sessions or call 13 20 50 and request Rainbow Rose, or book an appointment at any clinic that is convenient for you.