Belgium: Immigrant women not getting checked for breast cancer

Immigrant women aged 50-69 get themselves checked for preventing breast cancer too rarely. A screening in this age group is the best way to discover breast cancer at an early stage. In order to convince immigrant women to have their breasts checked a different type of campaign is necessary. For example, mosques will be enlisted as a communication channel.

Women aged 50-69 have since 2001 been encouraged by the Flemish government to do a bi-annual free mammography. Agency for Care and Health data shows that about 35% of women between 50 and 69 have themselves screened after the campaign. Doctor Nathalie Degrieck of the ZNA breast clinic says that Flemish women have a lot of 'breast awareness', but that older immigrant women barely show up for screenings.

According to Moroccan-Belgian family doctor Zouhair Elarbi there are several reasons for this. For many immigrants cancer is still incurable and therefore a synonym for death and misery. Additionally the baring of a breast in front of a male caretaker is impossible for many immigrant women due to religious concerns.

The current call-up for screening by letter is not efficient for immigrant women. The letter is opened by the husband usually since the woman can't read in many cases. He sees the call as a sort of interference in his private life and ignores it. Elarbi therefore says that the woman should be invited to an appointment by her doctor.

The mosque is also in important communication channel. Elarbi says that in contrast to what many think, both men and women come to the mosque, and that it would help if the imam says that women should go to the doctor to talk about preventive screening.

Source: De Morgen (Dutch)

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