Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, is working with their local mob to ensure women understand the whole process when it comes to being screened for breast cancer.
Located in Grafton NSW, Bulgarr Ngaru started offering breast screening with the Breast Screen NSW mobile van four years ago after they were offered a group booking for their clients.
“If people had to visit the bus on their own they probably just wouldn’t go. Now instead of going on their own to have their mammograms, the women can go as a group. Before the screening we have morning tea in the park and then after the screening we all go to lunch together,” said Lea Clayden the service’s Women’s Health Nurse.
“Because we make it a really enjoyable day we are getting far higher numbers coming for screening.”
Lea said it is important to ensure our mob are informed not only about the initial mammogram test but also about reasons why they may be called back for further testing and the process if that happens .
“So far no one has been diagnosed with cancer during the four years of our Breast Screening program, but we did have a few younger women who had to go on and have further investigation. When these women realised they had to go for more tests they just thought, ‘Oh no, I’ve had my mammogram and my results said I have to have further treatment – I must have breast cancer’. We explained that they just needed a different sort of mammogram than what the bus could offer and that they may also need a biopsy. All three women were cleared after they completed their tests.”
To make sure no more patients are worried about positive diagnosis and to ensure all women are kept well informed, the team from Bulgarr Ngaru now have yarning circles on the screening days.
“We usually do education on the day. We sit around in a circle and yarn about it, and the ladies who have had a mammogram before will often speak about their experience and say things like ‘it doesn’t hurt’ or ‘I’m glad I got tested’.”
Apart from the obvious reasons why people may be reluctant to have a mammogram, Lea said there can also be things as ‘simple’ as paperwork that can make the process more overwhelming that it needs to be.
“When you go to the bus there’s a fair bit of paperwork that needs to be done. The first year this took up a lot of time so now I get Breast Screen NSW to send the paperwork through to the clinic ahead of time and we try and fill in as much information as we have on file, such as Medicare numbers or who their doctors are, before the actual day.”
Lea believes that the easier and safer you make it feel for women, the more likely they are to come back for important screening tests which can detect cancer well before it can be felt or noticed.
Screening increases the likelihood of early detection and early diagnosis greatly improves the chance of survival.
“That’s also why we take them out to lunch to try to do something a bit special and it works because they tell all their family. Last breast screening day we actually had three sisters come along from the one family!”
For more information about breast screening visit