Margarette Fisher is a Ngarrindjeri woman who lives in Perth. She works at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service as a specialist coordinator and runs an Aboriginal cancer support group, which she started four years ago.
Working in Indigenous health as a cancer facilitator for family and community, Margarette understands the devastating impact breast cancer has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
She urges women to get regular breast screens every two years because early detection saves lives. “Go and get screened. Don’t leave it. If you have any concerns contact your AMS’, your health practitioners or BreastScreen Australia – and please go and get checked out”.
“BreastScreening Australia is saving lives”.
Margarette emphasises that breast screens are free for women 50 to 74, and there is support available for women who may be worried about getting a screen.
“If you’re feeling a little bit stressed or uncomfortable you can always bring a friend or a family member with you to your appointment. Because some of the women tend to get shame. You know letting a, in our lingo, a wadjalla* woman touch my breast, and to them it’s really nerve-racking”.
The BreastScreen Australia van visits Derbarl Yerrigan every few years and Margarette says that women who get their mammograms are made to feel comfortable and are always glad that they had their breasts screened.
After their mammogram I’ll ask them “was it that bad?” and they say “oh no I don’t know what I got all stressed about”. It was really good for them. And when you say to them “so will you come back in a couple of years?” they say, “yeah we’ll be back”.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, being able to pass on knowledge and culture to the younger generations is very important and Margarette acknowledges that women need to stay healthy for themselves, their families and their communities.
“Because us women are the foundations of our families. And we need to take care of ourselves, we need to make sure we’re well to look after our families, to be able to pass on and hopefully give that information to our grannies and our great grannies”.
Many women ignore the BreastScreen Australia invitation when it arrives in the mail. They often think that breast cancer won’t happen to them. But breast cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen to anyone. 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history. Go and get screened. Don’t leave it.
“I think even if you feel healthy and don’t show signs, you should get checked out, just to be on the safe side”, says Margarette.
Call 13 20 50 or visit cancerscreening.gov.au for more information and to book an appointment.