Program Seeks To Persuade Somali Women To Get Cancer Screenings.

When Wali Dirie’s mother was in her 50s, her doctor advised her to start going in for regular mammograms. So she went. But when it came time to undress for the exam, she stopped.

“She asked me my thoughts and my decisions, and I encouraged her, if she doesn’t want to do it we can stop,” Dirie said. That was a few years ago.

Now Dirie feels differently after attending a workshop organized by Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Minneapolis on cancer screening disparities.

“Allah sent the illness, and also sent the cure,” he said. “You have to know going to the doctor is part of what Allah made for us.”

Partnership aimed to address low rate of screenings; University of Minnesota researchers have partnered with the Minneapolis mosque to address alarmingly low rates of cancer screenings in the Somali community.

Misconceptions and cultural barriers often keep people from seeking prevention.

For the past two years, Dar Al-Hijrah has held workshops, presentations and conversations with focus groups to better understand why some fear the testing, especially for treatable cancers like early stage breast cancer.

The program aims to educate the community and dispel some of the fears connected to religion. “Some Somali women, they don’t participate in this screening because of maybe the modesty issue because of the faith,” said Imam Sharif Mohamed. “And I think that’s not right.”

In Somalia, like other developing countries, preventive care isn’t available or isn’t a priority. A cancer diagnosis carries a stigma in Somalia.

Community members say people don’t want to be labeled as cancer patients because that automatically means death is imminent and unavoidable. Some believe it’s their destiny to become ill, and prevention would be interrupting God’s plan.

He’s been telling mosque members that disease may be destiny, but so are treatment and early prevention. “The faith came to this world to support and help the mankind,” he said.

“Islam as a religion, it came here to support the wellbeing of the person. Whether it’s your physical health, or emotional health, or mind body spirit.” ‘Worryingly low’ cancer screenings

University of Minnesota researcher Rebekah Pratt has found that Somali women have the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world. The screening rates for breast and cervical cancers, however, are alarmingly low. The national rate is 72 percent for mammography and 82 percent for pap tests.

But when U of M researchers began digging into the numbers, they found that the mammography rate was just 8 percent among Somali women in low-income parts of the state.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio