POSITIVE steps are being taken to reduce the shocking rate of gynaecological cancers among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with, and 3.8 times more likely to die from cervical cancer than non-Indigenous women.
They are also 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with, and 2.2 times more likely to die from endometrial cancer than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
A new publication from Cancer Australia, with strong input from the Shoalhaven, aims to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers reduce the impact of gynaecological cancers in their communities by providing women with information and support.
Waminda’s senior regional manager Krissy Falzon and a number of the Nowra based organisation’s health workers played a role in producing the resource.
Mrs Falzon thinks it's a great collaboration between Cancer Australia and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities.
She said one of the most important things about the resource (Gynaecological Cancers: a Handbook for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners) was it had been designed in consultation with Aboriginal health workers for Aboriginal communities.
The handbook was created so health workers could give women facts on gynaecological cancer.
Mrs Falzon said another key factor in the production process was more than one community was consulted.
She explained not all communities were the same and they came from different language groups.
“It's a resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and so they needed to look at broad consultation across the country to make sure there is an opportunity for everyone’s voice to be heard,” she said.
She said without local voices the message would not get across.
“We are developing it for ourselves, our families and our communities. So I think that direct input is probably where you see that difference,” she said.
“This [the resource] can give clear, consistent messages in regard to cancer awareness, treatment and support across the board.”
Similar booklets on lung and breast cancer had been produced previously and achieved good results.
The resource is all about getting the rates of gynaecological cancers down.
“It won’t solve cancer straight away but it does teach that you have to be culturally safe and culturally aware and be able to refer pathways for women with cancers,” Mrs Falzon said.
Awareness, early detection, treatments and support through to palliative care are all covered.
Mrs Falzon said there were many reasons the rates of gynaecological cancers were so high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
“Women can easily push their health back to look after the rest of their family,” she said.
She said another factor would be not having a woman to perform gynaecological procedures.
All health workers, nurses, midwives and doctors at Waminda are women and they also look for smooth referral pathways.
Mr Falzon said it was possible not enough early screening was being done and as a result, the cancer was then detected at a later date.
“The handbook itself will be able to create clear messaging, clear guidelines in regard to support for Aboriginal communities through cancer journeys and diagnoses, and early detection and prevention,” she said
Waminda provides support in a culturally safe environment and covers Wollongong to the Far South Coast, so the resource will be distributed widely to health workers.
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