While cervical cancer and mortality rates have been declining for most Canadian women, First Nations women are still more likely to be diagnosed with the disease, says Sudbury's Northeast Cancer Centre.

"Let's talk about cervical cancer screening," is the title of a new educational program through the Centre, and the hope is to curb that trend.

Regular screening is half the battle to detecting and defeating cervical cancer, said Dr. Jennifer Jocko.

"We know that while screening is a critical cancer control strategy and Ontario has organized screening programs, including a cervical screening program," Jocko said, "participation rates for First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples are lower than the general population, more so here in the north than our counterparts in the south."  

As part of its Aboriginal cancer strategy, Cancer Care Ontario is working through regional cancer programs and community partners to address the personal, cultural and systemic barriers to screening for First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.

The involvement of the North East Aboriginal Cancer Screening Network was also indispensable in getting the program off the ground, said Elizabeth Edgar-Webkamigad, co-chair of the network.

"Over the past several months, the members of the network have readily shared their time, experience and cultural wisdom with the goal of creating a greater awareness of cervical cancer screening as an essential defense," she said.

"Let's talk about cervical cancer screening" resources will be available through Aboriginal health service providers. Presentations and activities will be taking place in northeast First Nations communities in the coming months.

With files from Martha Dillman. Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges