Many of us have questions about breast cancer prevention or screenings. Getting lost in a Google rabbit hole can sometimes be overwhelming and could lead to some false information. Heading to the doctor with basic questions isn’t always necessary, either. Luckily for New Zealanders, a pink caravan full of answers periodically makes the rounds to help.
‘Pinkie’ the caravan is Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s breast health dictionary on wheels. Nurses specializing in breast health travel aboard and offer advice and information for free. Topics can include mammograms, self-breast checking, and risk reduction measures. The van provides this service on a yearly trip around the country, and its next stop will be the town of Rotorua.
Coordinator Emilie Petitdemange says they have plenty of resources for women.
She explains, “One of Pinkie’s star attractions is Bessie, a life-like torso which shows the visible signs of breast cancer. Many women are often surprised to learn what a lump actually feels like, so we urge everyone to come along and find out for themselves.”
It’s not just prevention and screening, though. Nurses can also help with finding support groups and provide post-surgery tips.
Among the nurses who have lent their services is Bella, who took part in the 2020 South Island Tour. She works with cancer patients in all stages, including end of life. She says prevention is extremely important, and she wants to do her part to help women catch the disease early.
She explains, “Education and knowledge is key! If I can help prevent at least one beautiful woman having to go through the heartbreak of hearing ‘you have advanced breast cancer’ then I’m in!
The Pink Caravan is the best platform to spread the word about prevention, but more importantly to educate New Zealand wahine (women) about their breasts and learning how to get to know them, so if any changes occur it can be actioned and hopefully decrease the amount of emotional pain I see on a daily basis from that big ‘C’ word!”
The New Zealand Ministry of Health says more than 600 people in the country die of breast cancer every year.
The potential deadliness of the disease was one of the reasons the effort attracted Mark, a volunteer who towed the caravan around Auckland when it was making different daily stops at shopping centers. He said the decision to join in was special to him to help because he was facing a serious diagnosis, as well.
He explains, “I had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had been given 12 months to live. I was diagnosed with mesothelioma for which there is no cure. Despite wishing to spend all the remaining time that I had left with my loved ones and to, hopefully, fulfill my bucket list, I volunteered to help out with Pinkie, subject, of course, to my health at the time.”
The organization says it makes a point of stopping in rural areas that don’t have the same health care offerings as bigger cities. Their goal is to make sure breast cancer, which is the number one cancer diagnosis for women in the country, is caught early.
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