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Oral Cancer Prevention

#PapChat- A discussion

Join us for our #PapChat Instagram series as we talk with women about their Pap test experiences!

Daanis-Chosa

Daanis Chosa (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa), says she was nervous before her first Pap test at 18 because she didn’t know how it was going to go. In reality, “for the actual experience, they make you feel comfortable, give you time to get undressed and relax. Then it’s smooth sailing. The first time I thought it was going to hurt, but it didn’t. I remember feeling a pinch, but that was really it. There wasn’t any pain, instead, it felt like pressure.” #PapChat

Melanie-Plucinski

Regarding the stigma surrounding cervical cancer, Melanie Plucinski (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Ojibwe) feels that not talking about HPV is dangerous. “It is critical for us to remove that stigma. It can literally save lives. The majority of HPV diagnoses don’t lead to cancer if women are screened regularly. This is important to know so that women can maintain their health. I would be willing to talk to anyone about getting a Pap. Pap testing is not something to be afraid of.” #PapChat

Joy-Rivera

As AICAF’s Community Health Education Specialist, Joy Rivera (Haudenosaunee) knows the importance of talking about screening. “The more people who tell their stories, the easier it gets. Like with breast cancer screening, the more stories I hear in the community, the more it reminds me to stay on schedule. I appreciate people in a community who are willing to share their experiences, especially elders.” #PapChat

Amber-Cardinal

When it comes to giving advice to young women getting their first Pap tests, Amber Cardinal (Arikara, Hidatsa, and Ojibwa) thinks of what she would tell her younger sisters: “Make sure that you get them. As often as they are allowed. Be honest with your doctor. Go in with an open mind. Just do it, even if it’s awkward, uncomfortable or ‘the worst thing ever,’ you just gotta do it.” #PapChat

Laura-Roberts-BA

Leading AICAF’s cervical cancer programming, Health Programs Specialist Laura Roberts BA (Red Lake Ojibwe and Santee Dakota) has advice for women getting Pap tests: “Listen to your discomforts. If it doesn’t feel right between you and your doctor or clinic, you should look for something else. Pap tests are very private, so you should go to a clinic where you feel welcome.” #PapChat

Robert DesJarlait

July 29, 2019

When the emcee called for cancer survivors to come out to the floor at the 2013 Powwow for Hope, Robert DesJarlait (Red Lake Band of Chippewa) walked out to the shock of all those around him. “It was an emotional experience” Robert said, reflecting on his decision to go public for the first time about his cancer story.

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At 22 years old, a routine Pap test came back abnormal. When Kris went back to her tribal clinic for follow-up care, they found stage 0 carcinoma in situ. Kris and her doctors were quick to seek out treatment options, opting for cryotherapy (freezing the affected cells) and when that didn’t work, a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) day surgery, which removed the pre-cancerous sections of her cervix. Kris continued to return to the doctor every 3-6 months for routine Pap tests to ensure that her test results were normal and that the cancer was treated successfully. Today, she has a history of regular Pap test results.

Kris is speaking out about her survivor experience for the first time in celebration of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Because of her early-stage diagnosis, she hasn’t identified with the term “survivor.” While stage 0 is classified as pre-cancerous, stage 0 is still a common form of cervical cancer that can be just as much of a shock as later stage diagnoses. At AICAF, we recognize and celebrate survivors across all stages of diagnosis.

Another reason that Kris has not openly spoken about her experience is because of the stigma surrounding HPV and cervical cancer. At the time, Kris didn’t share her diagnosis with her family and confided only in her partner, who drove her to her procedures and offered her strong support. “I didn’t tell my family and took care of it quietly. There is a shame associated with HPV and cervical cancer that is still prevalent in our communities.” In reality, most people come into contact with HPV during their lifetime. It’s time to end the stigma and amplify the conversation on cervical cancer screening.

“My message is that regular screening meant an early diagnosis for me. I had minimal treatment compared to someone with a more advanced cancer stage diagnosis.” Kris’s advice is to talk to your doctor about what screening is best for you, and what screening means. She also stresses the importance of the HPV vaccine, a tool that is now available to protect our future generations from cervical cancer. “Getting the vaccine for my children was a no-brainer.”

Community-Education-and-outreach

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