The cancer centre in Sudbury says a test project to screen more people in Aboriginal communities for cancer was a success.

The Under/Never Screened project encouraged people in more than 20 First Nations to be screened for breast and colorectal cancer.

Research has shown rising rates of colorectal cancer in Aboriginal men, and Aboriginal women are more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of breast cancer.

About 1,700 people chose to go through the screening program over the past three years, increasing rates of breast cancer screening 13 per cent and colorectal screening eight per cent, according to Natalie Aubin, a director with the Northeast Cancer Centre.

“It is so exciting to see that, in such a short period of time, we have seen such significant increases in our screening rates,” Aubin said.

Health Sciences North partnered with a number of Aboriginal health care agencies for the project.

'A major step'

Through collaboration among Aboriginal health organizations, the communities, and the cancer centre, officials said the project identified barriers to cancer screening, such as lack of transportation and culturally appropriate materials and came up with solutions that directly addressed those barriers.

“The leadership of the Anishinabek Nation continues to be genuinely impressed by the level of commitment and engagement demonstrated by Cancer Care Ontario, in addressing the health needs of our people,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, Union of Ontario Indians in a press release.

“This project represents a major step in ensuring that our citizens are afforded the opportunity to be screened much earlier, and with resultant better outcomes. Our growing relationship with Cancer Care Ontario represents a true partnership, one we see as only growing stronger, now and in the future.”

The executive director of Mnaamodzawin Health Services, which serves several communities on Manitoulin Island, said understanding history and culture is a key part of effective healthcare.

“Residential school trauma has prevented people because they are shy and they are not going to go and ask the provider what they need to do,” Elaine Johnston said.

One full time staff member at the cancer centre will continue outreach work now that the pilot program is finished.

“For every patient screened, there is the potential that we would have caught the cancer early,’ said Jessica Diplock, who works in preventative oncology for the cancer centre.