Arabic-speaking women are being encouraged to have a potentially lifesaving mammogram and community leaders are highlighting the importance of breast screening and discussing the cultural barriers that exist for Arabic-speaking women.

Only one third (38.4%) of Arabic-speaking women aged 50-74, have their recommended mammogram every two years, significantly fewer than women aged 50-74 in general.

A common barrier to regular screening is the belief that breast cancer is hereditary – in fact, 90 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history.

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Another common myth among women from Arabic-speaking communities is that mammograms expose you to a dangerous amount of radiation, with some advising that they believed the mammogram itself can give a woman breast cancer. Actually, modern mammography machines use the smallest amount of radiation possible while still getting a high quality x-ray picture.

As a Multicultural Health Worker, Ms Seham Gerges has seen many women diagnosed with cancer and witnessed first-hand the positive experiences of early detection.

“One lady in my community had no pain, no family history, no symptoms, but because they discovered her breast cancer with a breast screen, they were able to treat it and save her life.”

Maha AbdoMs Maha Abdo, a prominent leader in the Muslim community and 2015 NSW Human Rights Ambassador, urges women to look after their health by ensuring they get regular breast screens.

“You have a responsibility over your body, to ensure it is nurtured and nourished. Your body is a sacred entity and you must look after it,” says Ms Abdo.

She emphasises that all of the radiographers at BreastScreen NSW centres and vans are women and Arabic-speaking women should not be concerned about getting a breast screen.

“Many women are very hesitant about getting a mammogram but the radiographers, all of whom are women, are very understanding and make you feel very comfortable.”

BreastScreen NSW offers free mammograms in over 200 screening locations across NSW. Free interpreter assistance is available for telephone bookings by calling 13 14 50. Group bookings can also be arranged and free interpreters can be organised to attend group appointments.

To find your nearest BreastScreen NSW service, visit breastscreen.nsw.gov.au.