Session teaches women importance of Pap testing

Danette Dooley
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Health Province has highest rate of cervical disease in country

During a luncheon at the Buckmaster's Circle Community Centre Friday, Susan Earles used a pear to teach women about their bodies.

Holding the piece of fruit in her hands, she compared it to a uterus.

"The neck of the pair where the stem goes is where the cervix is," she said, explaining that during a Pap test, cell samples are taken from the cervix and sent to the lab for testing.

During a luncheon at the Buckmaster's Circle Community Centre Friday, Susan Earles used a pear to teach women about their bodies.

Holding the piece of fruit in her hands, she compared it to a uterus.

"The neck of the pair where the stem goes is where the cervix is," she said, explaining that during a Pap test, cell samples are taken from the cervix and sent to the lab for testing.

Earles is Eastern Health's cervical screening initiatives program co-ordinator.

The rate of the disease in this province is higher than other parts of Canada, she said.

The number of women who die from cervical cancer - a preventable disease - is double the national rate, Earles said.

"This is a great opportunity to share with these women how important regular Pap testing is," Earle said prior to giving her presentation.

The centre's executive director, Bonnie James, represents the five community centres in the St. John's region on Eastern Health's cervical screening initiatives committee.

It's crucial that people like Earles come in to speak with the women, she said. The women also need encouragement and support after the lunch-and-learn to ensure they act on the information they've been given. A similar luncheon was held at the centre about a year ago.

More than a dozen women had Pap tests after attending the session, James said.

Some preferred to have the test done by their family doctor.

Others felt more comfortable visiting Glenda Stagg, a nurse practitioner with Eastern Health's primary health care program. Stagg offers a weekly Pap clinic at MacMorran Community Centre.

Develop rapport

She also spoke during the luncheon about both cervical screening and breast health.

"I try to develop a rapport with the women before I actually do the Pap test, and coming down here to promote regular cervical screening really helps because they get to see who I am," she said.

After attending last year's luncheon, Shirley Jordan got up the nerve to go to Stagg to have a Pap test - her first one in 20 years.

"If it wasn't for the staff here at the community centre, I never would have gotten it. Even with that support, I shook when the time came. But the nurse (Stagg) was really sweet and understanding," Jordan said.

Jordan said she worried about the results and felt like a "kid in a candy store" when told everything was fine.

After attending the information session last year, Jean Barron had a mammogram and two subsequent breast exams.

She also had a Pap test for the first time in 13 years.

"When the women started speaking (at the luncheon) and saying different things about cervical cancer, I knew I should get a Pap test. Before that, I figured if you were with the one partner, you didn't need to get one," Barron said.

Barron felt comfortable with her family doctor, Robert Woodland, who performed her Pap test and sent her for her mammograms.

The breast examination was worrisome, she said, as something turned up on the images.

"I found out five o'clock yesterday that it was all good," she said, commending Woodland for calling her at home with the news.

James said offering information sessions enables women to take control of their own health. She's optimistic those attending Friday's session will also act on the information they've received.

"These women do so much for their families, the last person they take care of is themselves. And a Pap might only take a couple of minutes. But it's still a difficult thing to do, especially if you haven't had one in a long time."

Anyone who would like further information on where to go, other than their family doctor, to have a Pap test can call Earles at 709-752-4353 or toll free at 1-866-643-8719.

telegram@thetelegram.com danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Circle Community Centre, MacMorran Community Centre

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's

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