October is breast cancer awareness month—a time where people across the country stand together to not only raise awareness of breast cancer, but take action to save lives.
Taking action is exactly what the Richmond mammography clinic would like to see from Richmond residents when it comes to booking and having regular scans. In a recent Global news interview, Ling Ge, a Richmond resident who says many in women her circle of friends and family are reluctant to get mammograms.
“I know some friends that are too shy to take their mammograms," says Ling, adding that there are many misconceptions on how women should go about getting tests done in the first place. “You don't need a doctors referral," she says. “It's very easy to go online to make an appointment or even come into the hospital to book it."
According to BC Cancer, immigrant screening rates in BC are low—especially among women from east European and central Asia at only 37.5 percent screening rates. Immigrants from Korea (39 percent), India (44.5 percent), and China (45.7 percent) also saw low numbers.
Andrea Bunkowski, a mammography and general X-ray tech at Richmond Hospital, says techs do their best to provide as many resources and options as possible for clients whose first language is not English, to feel comfortable throughout the screening process.
“We've learned some words in Chinese and have lots of translation tools that require yes and no answers so that we can obtain the patients' history," she says, adding that before every exam, she makes sure the patient is comfortable and understands the process. “We go slow and explain everything we do and why. We also like to encourage patients to communicate with us so that we can work together to ensure the exam is as comfortable as possible."
BC Cancer also has translated materials about the exam and screening available to patients on their website and in clinics.
Another barrier to increasing mammogram rates are the myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic. Andrea says some patients are afraid a mammogram will do more harm than good—that the squishing of the breast will cause any potential cancer to spread. She encourages patients to do research and ask questions if they have any concerns.
“Mammograms are important because we can detect cancer in early stages—sometimes even pre-cancer," she says.
To learn more about BC Cancer's mammography program, visit their website.