Identifying barriers to cancer screening

Darrell Cole
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Survey to help develop strategy

Cumberland Health Authority community health projects co-ordinator Erin Beaton (centre) looks over an online cancer screening study with NSCC – Amherst business students Sarah Carter and Josh Best. The health authority and NSCC students are working together on a month-long survey to identify possible barriers to cancer screening in Cumberland County. 

AMHERST – Students from the Nova Scotia Community College’s Amherst campus are joining forces with the Cumberland Health Authority to find out why county residents are hesitant to participate in cancer screening programs.

The health authority’s cancer care committee and business students are conducting a survey that starts today and runs until the end of the month that will ask participants what some of the potential barriers are to screening for cancers such as breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate cancer.

“The research  will help us understand the possible barriers to cancer screening  are among Cumberland County residents,” the health authority’s community health projects co-ordinator Erin Beaton said Thursday. “What we’re finding is that only  around  30 per cent of the population takes advantage of the screening opportunities that are out there even though screening and early detection can mean the difference, in some cases, between life and death.”

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an average of 200 Canadians die daily of cancer and 500 more are diagnosed. The society says early detection makes it possible for individuals to take action against the disease, however screening rates across the province are low because of perceived barriers such as an individual’s culture, fear, knowledge gaps,  expected pain and the  real  importance of being screened.

Beaton said the survey will help health officials identify local barriers and take steps to  try and eliminate them.

People can access the online survey by going to

The survey can also be accessed from the Cumberland Health Authority’s website and cards will be placed at doctors offices and other locations across the county.

Students from the college will be on hand at tonight’s curling charity event at the Amherst Curling Club and will also be going out to other locations  around the county over the coming month to distribute cards and can provide paper copies of the survey upon request.

Copies of the survey will also go out to the community   health boards and other groups as well as seniors housing through the Cobequid Housing Authority . Information will also be sent to larger employers such as IMP and Oxford Frozen Foods, encouraging employees to participate.

 “The information that’s collected will be presented to the local cancer care committee to develop a strategy around how to increase screening rates. We’ll look at three to five top themes and identify steps on how to address them,” Beaton said.

NSCC business faculty member Peggy Carter said the survey works well with the business program in that their course outline requires  students to collect and analyze data and create strategies based on the analysis of the data.

“It takes in all the courses they have done. It will allow them to apply what they have learned,” Carter said. “I met with Erin and decided we would partner. The students take the data, do an analysis of it with mentoring from the industry and present it to the committee. It runs the gamut of the hands-on learning process.”

The project aligns with one of the college’s strategic priorities of community connections, which is committed to building and sustaining strong connections with communities.

Student Josh Best is looking forward to the project because it’s not  just a hypothetical situation and the information provided will see real life outcomes.

“It’s better because it’s more effective than being hypothetical,” Best said.

The college’s participation could have an added benefit in that other NSCC students could take the survey and help create awareness of the need for screening.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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