Higher risk of cancer in west

Bid to boost breast screening rates as case soar.


‘JUST DO IT’ WILLMOT breast cancer survivor Debbie Sneyd is living proof getting checked is critical.


She lost her sister to breast cancer and was diagnosed herself two years ago.


“My sister had a pimple-like thing on her breast which got bigger and bigger,” she said.


She’d never had a mammogram.


“That was in January 2014 and she passed away in November 2014. I was diagnosed that September.”


“I would have never known it was there. There was no lump or anything.”


After seeing what her sister went through, she’s gone out of her way to help others.


“Just do it: take a friend who will be there when you go in and when you get it; it is 10 minutes and you will regret it if you don’t.” cancer in west


Stacy Thomas


WESTERN Sydney has one of the worst breast cancer rates in the world, yet women continue to ignore the pleas from health professionals to get checked.


Breast cancer screening participation rates across the Western Sydney Local Health District sit at about 48 per cent, six points less than the state average.


In Blacktown and Auburn it is even less, with only 46 per cent participation. The international benchmark is 70 per cent.


Westmead Breast Cancer Research Institute associate director Nirmala Pathmanathan said there were presently 290 women in western Sydney who have breast cancer but do not even know it.


“It worries me that in this day and age we have educated women come into the clinic with a large painful lump in their breast they’ve ignored and have let spread to the lymph nodes,” she said.


She said mammograms could pick up cancer as small as a grain of rice.


“And you won’t need a mastectomy or chemotherapy if it’s picked up early,” she said.


“Our participation rate is one of the lowest in NSW, something the health experts have struggled with for a number of years.”


Prof Pathmanathan said there were multiple reasons why western Sydney was lagging behind.

“We have a large population from very different ethnic backgrounds and that impacts the figures.


“We’re working hard to focus on these areas. We’ve done lots of things but we’re still struggling.”


She said participation from women from Arabic, Indian, Sri Lankan and Aboriginal backgrounds was low.


“We have one of the lowest participation rates in the state for Aboriginal women but one of the highest Aboriginal populations.”


The health district gets a list of people from the electoral roll who are in the target group. An invitation letter is sent out.


“The problem is, the letters are sent out in English — we don’t know what cultural background the person is from. We have bilingual community sessions and identify groups but it’s not enough.”


Prof Pathmanathan said not wanting to undress in front of other people and the fear of finding something were among the main reasons for not having a regular mammogram.


“They associate a mammogram with pain … I tell women the pain only lasts 10 seconds. If women are really sensitive, take some paracetamol beforehand,” she said.


Media source: Article originally published 6 December 2017 Parramatta Advertiser