Aboriginal project sees success in increasing cancer screening rates on Manitoulin

Pilot project increases screenings and awareness

MANITOULIN—Cancer screening rates have increased across Manitoulin First Nation communities, and across Northeastern Ontario in general, thanks to a collaborative three-year pilot project between the communities and the Northeast Cancer Centre (NECC) of Health Sciences North.

“The number of First Nation individuals getting screened was very low prior to the project,” Rodger Beaudin, M’Chigeeng Health Services department manager, told The Expositor. “We knew we needed to change this and so through the project we have been targeting colorectal cancer and breast cancer.”

Mr. Beaudin explained that he sits on a project steering committee and working group with other partners in the project including NECC, Wikwemikong Health Centre, Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, the North Shore Tribal Council, Mnaamodzawin Health Services, Shkagamik-Kwe Health Access Centre, Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, the Sudbury and District Health Unit and the Canadian Cancer Society.

“All of the First Nations’ health centres are represented on the committee and we have been working together to get the information out to our members and encouraging them to get screened,” said Mr. Beaudin. “In M’Chigeeng we have done a blitz, sending out letters and making calls to target age groups. The goal of the project in general is for early detection so that our members can have longer, healthier lives. Direct personal contact from the health centre has really been key in the push to get our screening numbers up.”

Mr. Beaudin said that the committee and health centres’ hard work has paid off as a recent evaluation report of the project revealed increased screening rates.

According to the report, breast screening rates have increased from 21.8 percent to 34.6 percent for an absolute increase of 12.8 percent and colorectal screening rates increased from 22.1 percent to 30.5 percent for an absolute increase of 8.4 percent.

“The Under/Never Screened Pilot Project has been a successful collaboration between NECC and aboriginal communities across the Northeast,” said Mark Hartman, vice president of Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Services at HSN and vice president, regional cancer program, in a release. “In this short time we have not only seen awareness and access for cancer screening increase but we have also built strong relationships with our aboriginal partners. These relationships will help ensure the advances made with this project will continue.”

“The leadership of the Anishinabek Nation continues to be genuinely impressed by the level of commitment and engagement demonstrated by Cancer Care Ontario, in addressing the health needs of our people,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Union of Ontario Indians. “This project represents a major step in ensuring that our citizens are afforded the opportunity to be screened much earlier, and with resultant better outcomes. Our growing relationship with Cancer Care Ontario represents a true partnership, one we see as only growing stronger now and in the future.”

“A world without cancer is possible,” commented Elaine Johnston, the executive director at Mnaamodzawin Health Services. “We are building on the momentum gained in the partnerships, the education and the tools developed together to prevent colorectal, breast and other cancers in our First Nation and aboriginal communities. I would like to thank Health Sciences North, the Northeast Cancer Centre and all partner contributions who help towards a world without cancer.”

The Under/Never Screened (UNS) Pilot Project began in 2011 when Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) provided funding for the NECC to launch a pilot project to increase colorectal and breast cancer screening awareness and rates within 21 aboriginal communities in the Northeast.

Mr. Beaudin said that the next task for the project is a focus on cervical cancer screening.

“We also want to begin analyzing the data to determine what population of our people are being affected by which type of cancer and begin to look at preventative measures,” he concluded.