Pushing past fear to book cancer screening appointments

Roller derby skater Kelly Warne gets that cancer screening can be scary.

“People may avoid screening because they’re terrified that signs of cancer might be found,” says Kelly, 32, whose skater name is Abbey Roadkill. “But screening is really important because it can catch signs early, when cancer’s easier to treat. It makes sense to stay up-to-date with screening as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Hammer City Roller Derby (HCRD) is teaming up with the Regional Cancer Program to promote cervical cancer screening. The Ontario Cervical Screening Program (OCSP) recommends that eligible women get a free Pap test every three years through their healthcare provider, such as a family doctor or nurse practitioner. Pap tests are recommended for women ages 21 to 69 who have ever been sexually active. Pap tests are also recommended for members of the LGBTQ community who were born with a cervix.

“Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable, but it means staying up-to-date with Pap tests,” says Dr. Dustin Costescu, Regional Colposcopy/Cervical Lead and an Assistant Professor and Family Planning Specialist at McMaster University.  “A Pap test looks for signs of cancer before it starts, and we can treat those signs so that people never go on to develop cervical cancer.”

Most cervical cancers are found in women who never had a Pap test, or were screened less often than recommended by Ontario’s cervical screening guidelines.

Cancer Care Ontario also recommends routine breast and colon cancer screening every two years as part of a healthy lifestyle, starting at age 50. The Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) offers free mammograms to women aged 50 to 74 with no signs of breast cancer. Early detection through mammography can result in more treatment options.

Men and women, ages 50 to 74, with no symptoms or family history of colon cancer can do an easy take-home screening test through the province’s ColonCancerCheck program. Colon cancer is highly treatable when caught early. In fact, nine out of every 10 people with this cancer can be cured thanks largely to early detection.

Kelly – a carpenter, artist and mother of two young girls – makes time in her busy life to stay up-to-date with Pap tests. And she will start breast screening before age 50 due to her family history. Her mother died of breast cancer at age 48, when Kelly was just 15-years-old.

“Cancer has surrounded me for much of my life,” says Kelly, who also helps out at her family’s business, BodyMed Boutique in Burlington. The store carries a wide range of products to support people with breast cancer including post-operative garments, mastectomy bras and breast prosthesis.

Kelly’s healthy lifestyle choices also include regular exercise, which is where roller derby fits in. “I grew up playing rugby and hockey, so roller derby was a natural fit.”

Anyone with questions about cancer screening is encouraged to talk to their healthcare provider. For more information about cancer screening, visit hnhbscreenforlife.ca. For more on HCRD, visit hammercityrollerderby.ca.