Editorial

Supporting women affected by FGC to access cervical screening

Published 11 April 2016

Female genital circumcision/cutting (FGC, also known as female genital mutilation or FGM) is a highly emotional issue that needs to be addressed by health practitioners, as increasing numbers of women affected by the practice settle in Australia.

It’s been estimated that 130 to 140 million worldwide have experienced a form of FGC.

In countries where FGC is practiced, cervical screening is not readily available, and therefore rates of cervical cancer in these countries are some of the highest in the world.

In Victoria, up to 80 per cent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have either never had a Pap test or did not have them regularly in the 10 years before diagnosis.

“A lack of understanding by Australian healthcare professionals to care for women affected by female genital circumcision prevents women from accessing health services such as Pap tests,” explained Intesar Homed who is a Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program (FARREP) worker from Women’s Health West.

New resources

An Australian-first project by PapScreen Victoria and Women’s Health West enables health professionals and women affected by FGC to receive culturally-sensitive information about cervical screening.

Health professionals who work in the regions of Victoria with female residents from the countries of Somalia, Egypt, Guinea, Sierre Leone, Djibouti, Mali, Sudan and Eritrea will be encouraged to use the resources.

  • Practitioners can use a visual card to assist them to understand which countries have the highest prevalence of FGC, offer cultural and clinical advice, view images of the different types of circumcision, and where to refer women to a specialised centre.
  • Translated fact sheets into the top languages spoken by women who have experienced FGC will enhance their understanding of cervical screening.

For more information on this project, email Lucy Forwood at lucy.forwood@cancervic.org.au.