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For Aboriginal Ambassador Patricia Clarke—who has connections to the Ngarrindjeri nations in South Australia, particularly to the Coorong, Meningie and the surrounding areas—turning 50 and being faced with not one but two cancer screening tests was overwhelming.

But, 12 months on, and after signing up as an Aboriginal Cancer Screening Ambassador, Patricia overcame her discomfort and is sharing her experience to help other women overcome theirs.

Aboriginal woman Patricia Clarke standing outdoors smiling

Patricia Clarke


I received my notification from BreastScreen SA when I turned 50, and at the same time, I received my Bowel Screening Kit. For both screenings, I didn’t do anything and ignored them for about 12 months.

The reason why I did nothing about them? I felt ‘shame’.

I didn’t want to expose myself to anyone. There was also the thought of having my breast ‘squished’—I didn’t want to go and get it done.

At this time, I didn’t have much awareness or education around having a mammogram or screening, and I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, but I have lost family members to other cancers.

It was in August 2019 when I signed on as an Aboriginal Cancer Screening Ambassador with Cancer Council SA that I decided to do the tests. I thought if I was going to promote the screening to my community, then I needed to be screened myself and ‘practice what I preach’.

After my first screening, I was very anxious about what the outcome might be. When I was given the news that I was all clear, I was very relieved.

Now, I am more confident in going and getting screened and I don’t have any hesitation. I know what the process is, and it’s only a few minutes of discomfort.

The BreastScreen SA staff were very friendly, cheerful, warm and professional and put me at ease.

I would highly encourage my sisters, friends, family members and community to get screened. If anyone needs more support to build the confidence to get screened, I suggest attending a mammogram with a friend or family member.

Screening mammograms are currently the best method available for detecting breast cancer early, but they do not cure or prevent breast cancer from developing in the future.

If you are aged 50–74, have a mammogram (breast x-ray) at BreastScreen SA every two years. Women aged 40-49 and over 75 can also screen for free with BreastScreen SA. However, they are encouraged to first speak with their GP to find out if breast screening is right for them. Despite if you are eligible for the two-yearly screening, it is important for all women to be ‘breast aware’. 

Women of all ages should be familiar with the normal look and feel of their breasts. If you notice any of the following changes, please see your doctor immediately:

  • a lump, lumpiness, or thickening of the breast
  • changes in the skin of a breast, such as puckering, dimpling, or a rash
  • persistent or unusual breast pain
  • a change in the shape or size of a breast
  • discharge from a nipple, a nipple rash, or a change in its shape

To find out more about Cancer Council SA’s Aboriginal Cancer Screening Project, and how we can support you to get checked, click here.

For more information about breast cancer screening visit our breast screening page.