COAST SALISH TERRITORY / VANCOUVER, BC — To recognize February 4, World Cancer Day, the First Nations Health Authority and BC Cancer are releasing a new set of Indigenous cervical cancer screening materials and encouraging women and people with a cervix to get screened.
The 2018 theme of World Cancer Day is: I Can, We Can. Cancer affects everyone in different ways. Similarly, we all have the power to take action to reduce the impact of cancer as individuals and communities.
"Evidence shows that cervical cancer is being detected in Indigenous people later than it is for other people in BC, and we know that many of us put off screening due to past trauma or unsafe care," said Dr. Shannon McDonald, Acting Chief Medical Officer, FNHA. "It is so important that we turn this story around for the next generation, that we encourage screening and create safe spaces and care for First Nations clients. We are so grateful that Ms. Erickson generously shared her screening story and we believe it will resonate with many."
In December 2017 the FNHA, BC Cancer, BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Métis Nation BC released an Indigenous Cancer Strategy. One of the recommendations is to increase access to relevant cancer screening services for Indigenous peoples, specifically to focus on cervical cancer screening for all Indigenous peoples with a cervix.
"Screening saves lives by detecting cancers early, often before they have spread and when more treatment options are available," says Dr. John Spinelli, Vice President of Population Oncology for BC Cancer. "Our research shows that cervical cancer rates are higher in First Nations people in BC, and we believe this is a result of lower participation in cervical cancer screening. We hope that stories such Ms. Erickson's will encourage more Indigenous women to participate in cervical cancer screening. BC Cancer is committed to ongoing collaboration to improve the cancer experience for all Indigenous people in BC."
Marion Erickson from the Nak'azdli Whut'en Nation in northern BC shared her story of getting screened for cervical cancer through a video interview with the FNHA and BC Cancer. You can watch the video here and download the posters here.
Her video testimonial encourages viewers to get regular pap tests, highlights the need for culturally safe screening where healthcare providers recognize the historical trauma that continues to affect Indigenous people when accessing screening. She also shares in the video that after her treatment,
she felt compelled to write her doctor a letter sharing her experience with intergenerational trauma. The doctor then asked to share a snippet of Marion's letter with her medical students.
"It was my hope that this video would be an insightful resource for non-Indigenous healthcare providers in helping to understand Indigenous women's trauma and how trauma can impact our health outcomes. Culturally-informed care needs to begin right from the medical school classroom to the emergency room, to the physician's office. I encourage Indigenous women to keep their own health in mind this World Cancer Day and schedule their pap tests when needed," said Erickson.
Regular Pap tests can prevent cancer - people that are 25-69 and have a cervix should get a Pap test every three years. Those with a cervix should talk with a health care provider about getting screened. Work amongst the partners to implement the goals in the Indigenous Cancer strategy is ongoing. If you have a cancer-screening related story to share, please email the FNHA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch Marion's story, here.
Download Cervical Screening Posters, here.
BC Cancer, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca or follow us on Twitter @BCCancer.
First Nations Health Authority is responsible for planning, management, service delivery and funding of health programs, in partnership with First Nations communities in BC. Guided by the vision of embedding cultural safety and humility into health service delivery, the FNHA works to reform the way health care is delivered to BC First Nations through direct services, provincial partnership collaboration, and health systems innovation.
Communications Officer, BC Cancer
Provincial Health Services Authority