Cancer screening at regular intervals plays a crucial part in your healthcare. Screening allows early detection of cancer, sometimes even before the symptoms arise, making it easier to treat.
However, many people do not undergo screening. This increases their risk for later-stage diagnoses and higher death rates.
Healthcare professionals and community health educators work hard to provide evidence-based cancer information, specially tailored to suit the needs of underserved communities and people living in rural areas.
What is the role of a community health educator?
The incidence of cancer in India is increasing rapidly, making it vital to raise awareness amongst the population.
That’s the main reason why community health educators reach out to people to educate and empower them to change their views towards screening and early detection.
Mainly,they focus on screening of breast, colorectal, cervical, oral, and lung cancers as their rates are highest among men and women of India.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in India, and cervical cancer being the second most prevalent cancer among women.
Engaging directly with people helps them get a better insight into their concerns and fear and tailor their efforts for maximum impact.
Ways in which health educators engage with the community
To better reach the general public, they first identify and contact organizations such as government agencies, healthcare centers, faith-based organizations, etc.
Through them, they explain their program’s goals and objectives to the people with the help of power-point presentations. Thosewho agree, they follow-up in a couple of months to see whether they have received screening.
This gives health educators a chance to interact with individuals personally and talk about the importance of cancer screening, risk factors, and symptoms.
They further fall back on their personal network of family and friends to share the significance of cancer screening and encourage them to share this information with their friends and colleagues.
How do health educators address cancer screening misconceptions or barriers?
Many among them are afraid to visit the doctor, as they donot want to risk hearing the bad news. One major deterrent is fear of a diagnosis. For them, it can open a can of worms.
If their results for a test come positive, they will need more tests and may not have enough financial capacity to cover the costs.
Another misconception about screening is that if there is no history of cancer in the family, it is unnecessary to undergo screening. However, family history is just one of the many parameters of assessing the risk of getting cancer.
Often, health educators are told that screening is not necessary as they feel fine and are not interested in looking out for problems. This is due to the lack of understanding about the importance of screening for prevention purposes.
In order to spread awareness among rural people, we try to make the information both interactive and informative. We also share personal stories of well-known personalities who have passed away due to cancer.
List of objectives of cancer awareness
- To create awareness and help remove stigma and fear attached to cancer.
- Educate people to recognize the early signs and symptoms of cancerso that they can seek treatment at an early stage.
- Highlight the importance of regular screening and check-ups.
- Offer advice to women about different ways of detecting breast cancer such as breast self-exam, clinical exam, and mammograms.
- Asking women to check for signs and symptoms of cervical cancer and educating them about pap smear tests.
- Most importantly, make people aware of cancer’s key risk factors as more than 30% of cases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle and keeping away from risk factors.