Lack of information behind Cumberland County's low cancer screening rates

Darrell Cole
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Health authority releases results of screening survey

Many Cumberland County residents don't take part in cancer screening programs because they don't know what to be screened for.

Dawn Ripley (left) and Erin Beaton of the Cumberland Health Authority look over the results of a survey on cancer screening that was presented to the authority’s annual meeting on Tuesday.

UPPER NAPPAN – A survey of Cumberland County residents has found most don’t participate in cancer screening programs because they don’t know what cancers to be screened for.

The survey, conducted earlier this year by Nova Scotia Community College in partnership with the Cumberland Health Authority, found that 32 per cent of those surveyed don’t know what they should be screened for, while 27 per cent said they don’t participate because they don’t know where to go to get screened.

Twenty-five per cent said screening makes them worry, so they don’t get screened.

“This information gives us an excellent foundation from which to work from,” Erin Beaton said Tuesday night while presenting the findings of the Possible Barriers to Cancer Screening Study to the Cumberland Health Authority’s annual meeting.

The survey was open to all Cumberland County residents ages 21 and over and was both electronic and paper surveys were collected. While 400 was the base level and 750 the preferred level, 896 surveys were collected from across the county.

Beaton said the survey was conducted to identify the possible barriers to screening, establish a benchmark for improvement and will lead to the development of a strategy aimed at increasing cancer screening rates in Cumberland County.

“The data in the report is being used to assist the district Cancer Care committee in the development of a health promotion and education plan,” community health project co-ordinator Dawn Ripley said. “The information will help to inform decision making which will guide effots to expand on current knowledge through planning and implementation of future collaborative project initiatives.”

The survey also found a direct link between the participant’s knowledge of what to be screened for and where to go for screening and their level of education, the participant’s level of worry in relation to screening and their level of education and the participant’s age and their knowledge of what to be screened for and where to go for screening.

Among those who don’t know what to be screened for, 40 per cent have less than high school as a level of education and are between ages 21 to 40. The same was true for those who responded that screening makes them worry.

A health promotion and education plan will include workplace education, public information seminars and consistent messaging along with building capacity and linking key collaborative partners.

It will also identify opportunities for future research and investigation.

Authority board chairman Bruce Saunders said the survey results show there’s lots of work to be done to increase screening rates, adding that  for colorectal screening the number is around 30 per cent.

“That’s just not good enough,” he said. “More people need to be screened. Ninety per cent of those who have an early diagnosis don’t have to worry about dying because it doesn’t happen, but many wait until they’re symptomatic and in many cases it’s too late.”

He said the province’s colorectal home screening program recently resumed and he urged those who receive the kits in the mail to participate. And, he also suggested everyone take part in screening for other forms of cancer because it could save their lives.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell



Organizations: Nova Scotia Community College, Cumberland Health Authority, Cancer Care committee

Geographic location: Cumberland County

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