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Canstar Community News
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This article was published 21/10/2012 (2926 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This week, Deborah Olukoju is leading a group of women on a school field trip to the Victoria General Hospital. They'll experience what they've learned about in class, and there will be a test.
A Pap test.
Olukoju is accompanying female immigrants in Winnipeg on a "field trip" for a Pap smear.
The counsellor at Winnipeg Technical College helps women studying English as an Additional Language take care of themselves.
"We provide the language skills they need to advocate for themselves to go and see a doctor and function independently."
Some have never heard of a Pap test, an effective way to screen for highly preventable cervical cancer, CancerCare Manitoba says.
CancerCare teams up with newcomer agencies and English as an Additional Language classes to teach women about the importance of Pap smears.
Regular tests can prevent up to 80 per cent of cervical cancer, says CancerCare. Sixty per cent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a Pap test in five years or longer, the agency says.
"One of the biggest barriers is not knowing how or where to access health care," said Sophia Ali, community development co-ordinator at Youville Centre. Staff go to English-language classes and newcomer agencies to talk to women about cervical cancer and how Pap tests can prevent it. She said they take information in the women's languages, a DVD and equipment used for the procedure, Ali said. The women know what to expect and can make an appointment on the spot to have a Pap test at Youville, she said.
Mosques and social-services agencies have also been reaching out to Muslim women, encouraging them to get checked.
"We have Muslim women doctors come and speak and nurses who talk about breast, ovarian and cervical cancer to an all-women audience," said Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association.
For observant Muslims to get a Pap test, a woman doctor is a must.
"We don't have enough women doctors taking new patients," Siddiqui said. "For newcomer women, that becomes a barrier."
"There could definitely be more female practitioners," Ali said. Patients who have asked to see a woman doctor are referred to the find-a-doctor telephone help line only to discover there are no women doctors taking new patients, she said. There are a lot of nurses with advanced skills who can do procedures such as Pap tests, Ali noted.
Some newcomers have had bad experiences in their countries of origin and don't trust doctors, Siddiqui said. Some have expressed fear they'll be sterilized during an internal exam.
"That has happened in some countries."
Here in Canada, she hears from women whose doctors get impatient, especially if English isn't the patient's first language. They may struggle to explain their symptoms, she said.
"If the doctor's not attentive to read between the lines," a problem goes unchecked or gets misdiagnosed, Siddiqui said. "The symptoms are not in her head and she didn't need a Valium and get told to go home."
Other reasons newcomer women aren't getting Pap tests are the same reasons women born and raised in Canada don't, Siddiqui said.
"Women just don't take care of themselves. They put everyone else first," she said.
"Sometimes it's just pure shyness to have an internal examination or to do a breast examination," Siddiqui said.
"It all depends on how you're socialized and what your experience has been with health care."
See TellEveryWoman.ca to find out where you can go for a Pap test in Manitoba or call 204-788-8648 or 1-866-616-8805 toll-free.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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