Breast cancer and Laotian women

She said, ” Take your blouse off and put this on.” I hesistated briefly before complying and shrugging off my shirt and putting on the temporary “shirt” as the radiologic technologist stepped out to give me some privacy. Then she came back in as she was about to explain the mammogram procedure, she stopped and looked at me and said, ” You look familiar to me”  in which I replied, ” Well I should because we had a parent conference about your son a month ago. I’m part of the child study team.”  Recognization dawned and she said, ” Oh… you also had my daughter last year!”  At this  point, in our conversation, I decided, having my ex-student’s mom giving me a mammogram is a little awkward, but not unexpected because I normally either see former students or recent students or their relatives out in public.  At that moment I decided, I can’t afford to be embarrassed or shy since it is a procedure I needed to get done. I can’t very well stand there the whole day hiding my boobs with my hands and prevent her from doing her job! So I tamper down my embarrassment and listened as she explain what was going to happen. During this time, I kept thinking about how if I was embarrass about this procedure, how would my mom feel or other Laotian women.

As she proceeded to explain the procedure to me, she nonchantly taped a bead on each of my nipples. She explained what they were for but I have since forgotten or maybe I blocked it out since it is a little awkward that my ex-student ‘s mom touching my boobs no matter how professional she was. Throughout the whole procedure she was very professional and good at her job. In between the little steps we talked and laughed at the mundane things. At the end she told me I did an awesome job listening and following direction. I told her, I didn’t want to look bad since I am a teacher. Joking aside, if it was my mother getting the procedure done and the technician was explaining to her what was going to happen; my mother would not understand. She would just smile, nod her head. I believe that many Laotian women who are not familiar with the language, would not be able to ask questions.

I tell this story because even I as a young woman who grew up in America, is still comfortable with exposing my body to a medical professional. I can only imagine, how embarrassing this procedure is to the older Laotian women, like my mother’s generation.  Most young Laotian women who has lived most of her life here in the U.S. is quite aware of breast cancer and the importance of doing a self-exam. However, the older generations may not feel comfortable with touching their breasts to look for lumps or know what to look for. Due to culture, they are not as comfortable as American women or knowledge about the preventive measures they can take such as self examination and early detection. I know my mom does not go get an annual pap smear or mammogram because she hates going to the doctor. Since I am concern with the health of Laotian women, I am going to work with my LANA board member on translating breast cancer and other health related issues into Lao in hopes that more women will do breast examination.

For more information about mammograms please go to: http://www.medicinenet.com/mammogram/article.htm

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3 thoughts on “Breast cancer and Laotian women

  1. When my older sister went for her mammogram, I went in with her to translate, same with my mom when she was still living. I think there is nothing to be embarrassed about, but to get the message across is a lot harder, and good luck with your translation.

  2. Laotian Teacher

    They are specialist but I still feel uncomfortable with “public” nudity. When I was living at home I would be the translator for my mom as well. I think with the translation we are going to keep it simple, instead of getting too technical:main idea is to get tested to save your life.

  3. first i like to commend every women that doing themself a breast exam.I applaud everyone of you that do it.You
    all got respect.And for those that don’t and feel embarassed about your body.I understand that it can stressful and a little confused to face ourself in the mirror.But i just wanted say the it’s ok to be embarassed we are human but you got to remeber that it’s for you own good and for your health purpose.There’s no shame when it
    is detect early and cancer don’t win if we are smart enough to be wise about our body.The better we are at
    supporting the fight to win over caner we can do much more to educate other to be brave without being fear of dying.Like i said we are all human and shouldn’t be ashamed of our body and our health we should do what we can do best to protect it.This issue about a person health i took it personally and I accept their personal issue
    to the heart with a total respect.

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