On March 2, Scarborough Health Network (SHN) hosted a South Asian Breast Cancer Awareness and Screening Event at Centenary Hospital, in partnership with Scarborough Ontario Health Team (SOHT), Toronto and Central East Regional Cancer Programs, Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities (SCHC), Canadian Tamil Congress, Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario and Vasantham Health and Wellness Centre.

The full-day event offered expert panels of healthcare workers and patients with lived experience to bring awareness to breast cancer and share information on preventative screening, treatment options and how mental health and nutrition play a role in modifiable breast cancer risks and recovery.

“I learned more about the other early symptoms of breast cancer to look for besides checking for lumps,” said one of the attendees. Over 50 community members came out to the event, and expressed their enjoyment and appreciation.

“It was wonderful to be part of an event that raised awareness about breast cancer in the South Asian community,” said SHN Geriatric Psychiatrist Dr. Tanya Pinto who joined with Crisis Case Manager Fadiya Shaideen for the event’s introductory session on how constraints around sharing information and having conversations about breast cancer in the South Asian community can impact mental health.

Dr. Pinto and Fadiya were among a number of SHN physicians and staff from many disciplines and programs who attended and spoke at the event, sharing important information and experiences. Other SHN team members included:

  • Dr. Tanya Pinto, Geriatric Psychiatrist, SHN
  • Dr. Asfhan Rana, Medical Oncologist, SHN
  • Dr. Mojola Omole, General Surgeon, SHN
  • Dr. Nisha Ravichandran, Family Physician, SHN
  • Dr. Sailaja Nallapaneni, General Surgeon, SHN
  • Joanne Fernandes, Director, Diagnostic Imaging Services, SHN
  • Jia Inacio, Manager, Diagnostic Imaging Services, SHN
  • Michelle Jones, Charge Mammographer, SHN
  • Shirley Murphy, Charge Technologist, SHN
  • Fadiya Shaideen, Crisis Case Manager, Mental Health Services, SHN
  • Amira Ayad, Spiritual Care Practitioner, SHN
  • Shreevalli Velauthan, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, SHN

The South Asian Breast Cancer Awareness and Screening Event particularly served as a safe space for open dialogue with others with similar backgrounds and experiences with concerns, anxieties, and cultural and social pressures within the realm of breast health. This was valuable for increasing accessibility to information about breast cancer within South Asian families and among the community.

“It can be hard to discuss these sensitive topics due to the stigma surrounding them. It was heartening to hear the personal stories and messages of hope and courage from attendees with lived experience with breast cancer. Sharing culturally relevant information and resources will go a long way to help others in the future,” said Dr. Pinto.

“The panel discussions were very informative, especially when they talked about the specific stigma within the south Asian community and how speaking about certain body parts can be a barrier to early detection,” added another participant.

Community members who attended the event also had the opportunity to receive same-day consultations about their breast health, as well as on-site screening. Almost half of the participants opted to receive a mammogram, which were performed in the Breast Health Clinic located at Centenary. Regardless of if attendees came to be part of the panel discussions or to be screened, there was strong consensus around the need for more preventative care and education in the future to help spread awareness and save lives.

“You don’t choose to have breast cancer, but you can choose to be part of the cure, whether it be by participating in a trial to further breast cancer research or raising awareness,” said SHN Medical Oncologist Dr. Asfhan Rana.

“I challenge you to funnel the negativity of cancer diagnosis into a positive outcome for you and others. To those living with breast cancer, although we can’t currently offer you a cure, we can offer hope. Breast cancer is the most highly researched cancer with innovative treatments in development: patients are living better and longer than ever before. Never give up!”

Breast health screenings at SHN

SHN has Breast Health Clinics at our General, Centenary, and Birchmount hospitals that are Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) designated sites. This initiative led by Cancer Care Ontario permits OBSP sites to provide faster, simpler breast cancer screening for communities. As an affiliate, our Breast Health Clinics offer eligible patients (between the ages of 50 and 74 years od) quick and easy bookings for mammograms without a physician referral by calling 416-431-8167.

Patients with any breast health concerns are encouraged to speak with your family physician and seek a consult. Your doctor will be able to make a requisition.

For more information or questions, please call one of SHN’s breast navigators at 416-284-8131 ext. 5264.