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Mamas needn’t be nervous, says Hine

Hineiri Rangitutia (centre) with her daughter Raewyn (right) and grand-daughter Stacie-Rae.

Hineiri Rangitutia (centre) with her daughter Raewyn (right) and grand-daughter Stacie-Rae.

Hineiri Rangitutia, her daughter and grand-daughter are the “face” of Waikato DHB’s My MAMAgram campaign, which is something she is very proud of.

The My MAMAgram radio and Facebook campaign encourages women who live or work in the Hamilton area to have a breast screening mammogram, and asks daughters to talk with their mums about getting it done.

So when Hine was asked if she would mind her family modelling three generations of mums and daughters, she jumped at the chance. “I was hoping that the pictures would portray that generations of women can support each other, and if we can get more ladies coming in for a mammogram that would be so good.”

Hine works for Waikato DHB’s Maori Health service Te Puna Oranga as a kaitiaki for breast screening services, a role that supports Maori women aged 45 to 69 to get their two-yearly mammogram.  It was a new position when she joined two years ago, and is shared between Te Puna Oranga and the DHB’s Screening Services.

She provides one-on-one support for women who might be getting a mammogram for the first time, or who are being called back to a clinic appointment, or perhaps are referred to her from a ward during treatment. It is the human touch, a friendly person they can talk to about their concerns and who can explain what the process is – and be there with them at their appointment if they want.

With Maori and Pasifika women having a lower rate of enrolment and screens in the programme, Waikato DHB is searching for better ways to reach out to those communities. Hine’s role is one way, the personal way, which really works.

“Some of the ladies who get referred to me (by the Breast Screening Programme or nursing staff) are a bit anxious, especially if they have been called back for further assessment.

“To tell you the truth, a lot of my role is just to listen to them and explain that the team here is really fabulous and will look after them, respect them.”

Hine says the two main barriers to a woman getting a breast screening mammogram are both very human ones – the fear of finding out she has cancer, and the belief that the mammogram is painful.

These women – “my ladies” as Hine calls them – need reassurance from someone they trust.

Waikato DHB's My MAMAgram campaign aims to tell mothers and daughters what mammograms are really like and why they are important.

Waikato DHB’s My MAMAgram campaign aims to tell mothers and daughters what mammograms are really like and why they are important.

She says the hardest time for women who have been recalled for a biopsy or further assessment is waiting a week or so for those results. “I tell them: we’ll ride this one together.”

The fact is, of every 10 women recalled after a mammogram for further assessment, only one will have a diagnosis of cancer. And if it is caught early, successful treatment is much more likely and the woman can get back to her normal life as soon as possible.

As for the mammogram itself, which is a digital x-ray of each breast, Hine says the procedure has come a long way in the last few years. “The new digital equipment takes a much better x-ray without needing to compress the breast as much as before. So most women find it briefly uncomfortable but not painful and it is all over in a few minutes.

“I had a woman who came here and was really worried because all her workmates had told her it was going to be painful. Afterwards she said: I’m going to really slap all my mates, they don’t know what they are talking about! And she just skipped out of there feeling so good.”

Hine often meets women coming for their first mammogram who have put it off for a long time because they are worried what it is really like. Afterwards they kick themselves for not having done it earlier. It is quick and simple, you are treated with gentleness and respect, and it is only uncomfortable for a moment.

It is a role close to Hine’s heart, both through her work and her personal life experiences. She knows the importance of early detection of cancer. She lost her husband of 48 years to cancer a couple of years ago, and only recently had the final all-clear herself after surgery and chemotherapy for a brain tumour.

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