Dr Heather is committed to promoting awareness around breast cancer, especially amongst the Pacific community; she currently sits on the Medical Committee for the Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand and offers her expertise as a GP while also offering insights from a Pacific perspective.
“My role in the committee is to offer my knowledge as a GP but it’s also bringing the voice of Pacific women and that understanding of how we can better support our people. It’s important to make sure that the work being done is equitable.”
Having a family history of breast cancer, Dr Heather says it drives her to raise awareness and ensure Pacific women feel safe and comfortable to approach the matter.
“The topic is personal to me because I’ve had a number of family members previously diagnosed with breast cancer. We need to come together as a family and as a community to support one another.
Our screening levels nationally should be above 80% and progress is definitely being made; for Pacific Island women, we are sitting at around 72%, but the goal is to be over eighty or ninety percent. It’s still a bit of a taboo subject because it can feel invasive talking about that part of your body, which is why it’s crucial that we continue building awareness and having conversations about the importance of breast screening.”
Dr Heather emphasises the importance of breast screening and speaking to your GP or family doctor if you want help being directed to the appropriate forms of support.
“For women aged 45 to 69, getting a mammogram is free, so we try to encourage our women to get screened so we can look for early signs of breast cancer and support them in their treatment.
There’s some fear around being screened so we need to continue normalising conversations around breast cancer so women know where to go for support.”
Dr Heather’s key message as we near the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is that the dialogue does not need to stop here.
“Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important in engaging our communities about the topic, but the conversations don’t need to stop once October is over. It’s such an important cause and we continue to emphasise that we should not be afraid to ask for help.
The first point of action you should do is go to your GP and from there we can help you with any feelings or concerns you have. The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation also have amazing resources and people that you can contact if you need some more information.”
Date: Monday 31 October 2022#pmaunite #pmafamily