BREAST cancer survivor Kym Krasa is confident beautiful new gowns would help fellow indigenous women to feel more comfortable for a breast screen.
And not just because they will no longer have to wear the "old, daggy gowns" she had to pull on.
Ms Krasa said the gowns should help more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women feel culturally safe and special.
Specially-designed gowns, unveiled on Tuesday, have been a key project in a decade-long partnership between Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative and Grampians BreastScreen at Ballarat Health Services.
The partnership has help to build one of the highest screening rates in the state for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women. The Grampians service screened 79 indigenous women in 2017-18, up from 62 a year earlier.
BADAC medical clinic women's health nurse Sandy Anderson said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women were significantly under-screened, largely due to negative experiences in accessing mainstream health services and treatments.
Ms Anderson said cultural shame and stigma for a personal screening was a big barrier for women in this community where traditional health beliefs did not always align with health processes.
"An under-screened population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women are often slower to be dioagnosed and then can be slower to move through the treatment process which can result in higher mortality," Ms Anderson said.
"Having beautiful gowns is a visual symbol of the work we've done with BHS. We hope they feel welcome and safe - culturally safe, that's very important."
The gowns will only be worn by BADAC clients and patients who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Details of the gown design have been recognised in a label for women to see.
Gowns come in four designs and Ms Anderson said each artist was ethically sourced through a liaison company.
Grampians BreastScreen program manager Kim Kyatt said the aim was to make the screening process easier for indigenous women and, if needed, diagnosis and treatment in a bid to improve survival rates.
For Kym Krasa, the journey started seven years ago and she said support from BADAC and Grampians BreastScreen had been incredibly important the whole way.
"I say to women, you've got to do it. Don't let it go," Ms Krasa said. "Life is there to keep doing the life you want to do."
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