Daily Herald American Cancer Society
New breast health awareness efforts target suburban Polish community

From Addison to Itasca to Mount Prospect, there's a new effort to bring culturally sensitive breast cancer awareness and prevention messages to the suburban Polish speaking community.

"As a culture, we're typically doubting and untrusting," says Izabella Redlinski, former program coordinator for Breast Cancer Network of Strength Illinois. "Most don't like going to the doctor and Polish women in particular are known for taking care of everyone except themselves."

With more than 1 million Polish-Americans in the metropolitan area, Redlinski says it's an imperative part of the organization's strategic plan to reach out to community and school-based groups, especially those in the northwest suburbs.

"Cancer prevention is something which simply wasn't discussed in Polish households until the late '90s," she explains.

"Because so many of today's Polish immigrants pursuing the American dream are uninsured or underinsured, health care tends to be less of a priority."

However, experts caution that women in the United States are at triple the risk of their Polish counterparts in developing breast cancer.

"To help make this important information available, we're reaching out to the suburban Saturday morning Polish schools as well as larger Polish community groups with specialized and culturally-sensitive breast health awareness and information on early detection," Redlinski explains.

To date, she says, efforts have focused in communities like Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Addison and Itasca. Dozens of women attended a recent Breast Health Awareness Workshop at Wauconda's Jan Matejko Polish Saturday School, learning about early detection and how to access local resources. At Network of Strength Illinois' first Cancer Awareness Seminar for the Polish community held at Chicago's Copernicus Center, women were introduced to various state and community programs that offer free breast health screenings. More than 200 women at this event signed up for free mammograms.

Network of Strength offers workshops, literature and online resources in Polish. Support groups for Polish-speaking survivors currently are being planned.

For information on Polish outreach services, call Gabriela Kowalczyk at Breast Cancer Network of Strength Illinois at (312) 364-9071 or visit www.networkofstrength.org/illinois/polish.

 

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