Three women sitting together

High number of Breast Cancer cases, especially among Indigenous women

By Abby Francis, qathet Living, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Asurprising number of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous women in this region have had breast cancer.  

That is what Nanette Kapitan (a survivor of eight years) observed, after moving to the qathet region in early 2020. “I had gone for screenings since my early 20’s, and one day it came back positive,” said Nanette. “Because it was caught early, it was small, but a lumpectomy was required.” 

She did not find any post-surgical mastectomy garments when she moved here – so she decided to do something about it. 

Kompassion for Kups is a business Nanette started, which offers high quality Anita Care products for women in this region. The garments and prosthetics help women feel more comfort and support after breast cancer surgeries. Because she’s a licensed medical provider in the region, customers can submit for reimbursement to BC MSP, BC First Nation Health, and private extended health care plans. 

“Something I always say is you have to ask for more, you cannot just settle; advocate for yourself, your sister, your mother, your grandmother, or your auntie, to name a few. There are limited medical products out there to help you feel comfortable, but they are now available locally. It’s hard enough going through breast cancer and feeling whole again which is a mental health comfort that no woman should be without,” says Nanette. 

The important message of ‘go get screening done” is not only for breast cancer but also for cervical and colorectal cancers.

“We heartfully encourage your mom, sister, auntie, grandmother, or friend to participate. This is one way we can be certain about Taking Care of our Women.” 

The three women have all had cancer within their lives.

Local Indigenous women have much lower screening and survival rates.

Here on the coast, breast cancer screening rates are much lower among Indigenous women than the general population. 

About 38 percent of Indigenous women between 50 and 69 were screened between 2017 and 2019, compared with 54 percent of all women of that age group. 

The survival rates of First Nations peoples who have cancer are lower than for the general population. 

BC Cancer’s Indigenous Cancer Control Manager Ashley Turner explains: “There are a lot of factors here. It could in part be because First Nations are getting diagnosed at a later stage,” Ashley says. Getting screenings done is important to catch cancer early, meaning a better chance at survival, and greater health outcomes. 

About one in eight women get breast cancer at some point in their lives, usually after age 50, according to the Government of Canada.

 Taking care of our Women event

The new event for Indigenous women will be held on October 21st at 5:30 pm in the Tla’amin Salish Centre (or online – check closer to the time). There will be presentations and prizes. 

Community registration for this event will be available on the Tla’amin Nation Facebook page. T-shirts will be for sale early October at the Tla’amin Nation Government House, with the profits going towards the Tla’amin Health Cancer Comfort Fund.

Top photo credit: The three women have all had cancer within their lives.
Photo by Abby Francis

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