As we continue to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year, our Breast Health team is pleased to share the following piece by Dr. Janice Nazareno, Lead for Breast Imaging in Scarborough Health Network’s Diagnostic Imaging Department on the importance of matching appropriate supports with the unique needs of a diverse community in order increase use of breast cancer screening services and allow people to take more control over their health.

By Dr. Janice Nazareno, Breast Imaging Lead, Diagnostic Imaging Department, Scarborough Health Network

Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women from all walks of life, regardless of their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. As a radiologist in Scarborough, I believe breast cancer screening tailored for each individual is crucial to early detection and saving lives.

In Scarborough, we understand cultural beliefs, language and, socioeconomic factors can create obstacles to accessing healthcare services. It is imperative to break down these barriers and ensure that everyone who identifies as a woman, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to undergo regular breast cancer screening.

The most significant challenges we face include dispelling myths and addressing a general lack of information about breast cancer. Cultural taboos and fear often deter women from seeking timely medical attention. To help combat this, specially trained breast health navigators help arrange appointments and support patients to be fully informed at every step of their care, including complex cases requiring multiple tests and consults, or those who need to be connected to surgical services or cancer care treatment and support. Navigators are also helpful for patients who are new to Scarborough and may not be as familiar with the system or how to advocate for themselves within it. I am so proud of my breast health navigator colleagues Michelle Jones and Shirley Murphy, who really take the time to get to know their patients.

People in Scarborough access hospital services at a lower rate than any community in Canada, due in part to the higher population of newcomers in this community. We have worked hard to be able to offer breast cancer screening without a physician referral for women aged 50-74; each of Scarborough’s three hospitals are designated Ontario Breast Screening Program sites, an Ontario Health initiative that permits trusted providers to screen without referrals.

Women are also more likely to access care when they discover that they can communicate in their first language through our interpretation services. With interpretation support in more than 200 languages, we eliminate misunderstandings and address fears that prevent women from seeking mammograms or clinical breast examinations.

Breast cancer screening is not a one-size-fits-all solution; our local demographics have given us tremendous experience in delivering on that understanding. My colleagues are setting an example for Canada by meeting the unique needs of each individual. By working together, we can empower women to take control of their health and reduce the impact of breast cancer on their lives. Join us October 28 at Centenary Hospital for a Breast Health Workshop, hosted in partnership with The Olive Branch of Hope, Black Physicians Association of Ontario (BPAO), and TAIBU Community Health Centre. Register today.

To book a mammogram at any of Scarborough Health Network’s clinics, call 416-431-8167.

Dr. Janice Nazareno is the Lead for Breast Imaging in Scarborough Health Network’s Diagnostic Imaging Department as well as being an Adjunct Lecturer with the University of Toronto.