The Chief Public Health Officer of the Northwest Territories says there are still many serious misconceptions about cancer in the N.W.T.

Andre Corriveau says many aboriginal languages don't have a word for "cancer" and instead use terms that lead to misunderstanding about the illness.

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Andre Corriveau, N.W.T.'s Chief Public Health Officer, says many aboriginal languages don't have a word for "cancer" and instead use terms that lead to misunderstanding about the illness.

"Terms like "a worm that's eating you" or "bugs" or they would use the same term that they would use for HIV, so there was a perception in some communities that cancer was contagious," says Corriveau.

"People who were diagnosed with cancer wouldn't get visitors. They felt ostracized and cut off from the rest of their community."

Corriveau says many people still don't see cancer as something that is beatable.

Last year the N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services funded activities in the regions to help develop terminology around cancer.

This year it has received nearly $750,000 through the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and plans to spend that money on increasing awareness and improving communication about the disease among First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in the Northwest Territories.