The impact of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have had a major effect on breast cancer patients and the ability for women to get checked for the cancer.
According to the Breast Cancer Foundation, 400 women who would have received a breast cancer diagnosis missed out on getting mammograms or a referral from their GP because of Covid-19 restrictions, delaying their ability to start treatment.
Foundation ambassador Stacey Morrison says it’s been especially difficult for women diagnosed this year and who have had to go through treatment by themselves.
“I feel so much aroha for those women if they have to go in by themselves or if they’ve been isolated by Covid-19. That’s why it’s a lot harder.”
Raising awareness about breast cancer is important to Morrison because she lost her mother to the cancer in 2002, aged 45.
“Our women sometimes suspect that something's not quite right but they’re scared and they don’t want to know the worst and so, by trying to put it of,f we actually put ourselves in a worse situation," she says.
“I’ve met women who have admitted that they thought ‘Oh I should go in and have a mammogram' and it saved their lives. So that’s all I need to know is if it helps one or two people.”
Morrison says wāhine Māori are also less likely to get tested, so as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, she is encouraging wāhine to get a mammogram.
“Wāhine Māori are really busy. It’s easy to put everyone else first so I understand that but one of the kōrero that we’re talking about this month is we always talk about kōrero tuku iho, our stories that come from our ancestors before us.”
Morrison says the focus is to encourage women to get tested for the benefit of their future mokopuna.
“My kids are only seven, 12 and 13 at the moment but I want to be a kuia one day and that’s my aim. I need to be here, I need to be healthy so as wāhine we need to be brave, we need to do all the things to tell our kids to look after yourself and also to do things for your whānau.”
Morrison says there are nine signs of breast cancer that people can be aware of including lumps, a rash, nipple inversion, discharge, colour change, swelling, armpit swelling, dimpling and pain.
“Mammograms can make sure that we can see what’s happening with your breast much earlier than say, if you feel a lump. So what we want to do is try to catch that before it gets to the point where it is a lump.”
She says women 45 years and over can book in for a screening with Breast Screen Aotearoa.
For people wanting to get involved in events a part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, events are being held around the motu, including three Pink Ribbon Walks each in Christchurch Auckland and Wellington.