Lessons in self-examination
Pamphlets, workshops on preventing breast cancer

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 15/99) - Judy Williams was 44 when she went in for a yearly mammogram. The routine procedure may have saved her life.

"The lump was small and deep, and neither I or my doctor discovered it," she said. "But the mammogram did."

Williams lives in Yellowknife and is a member of the NWT Breast Health/ Breast Cancer Action Group, which recently received approval of a large grant to educate women on breast self-examination.

Marsha Argue, director of the Status of Women Council of the NWT, said the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation has approved a grant of up to $26,000 for the breast health education program.

"We're so pleased to be getting this funding," Argue said. "And Health Canada has also approved up to $25,000."

The program, which is a partnership between the council and the action group, is designed to give women and their health care workers more information on breast health.

"We started last year by producing pamphlets in all the aboriginal languages on breast self-exam," she said. "With this year's funding, we've hired an educator, who will travel around to the communities."

The pamphlets and a resource book will be distributed to all health clinics and hospitals in the North.

The cash was raised by the CIBC Run for the Cure, held Oct. 3 across Canada. The Yellowknife run alone raised $80,000.

The program will also include workshops for doctors and nurses on how to properly examine breasts for breast cancer.

"We concentrate on three things: do BSE (breast self-exam), have your breasts checked by a doctor or nurse once a year, and have a mammogram," Argue said.

There has been some controversy in recent years about the effectiveness of BSE and mammograms, especially for younger women.

"We're not stressing women do one type of exam over the other," Argue said, "we just want women to know their breasts so they will notice any changes."

She said younger women's breasts tend to be denser, making it harder for the mammography X-rays to catch a lump.

"But they found mine," she said.