Breaking Cultural Barriers To Fight Breast Cancer

Tusi Toomata-Mayer
Tusi Toomata-Mayer
Gay Polido-Scott
Gay Polido-Scott

(KHNL) - It wasn't always easy for Gay Polido-Scott to get medical attention.

Three years ago, she discovered a lump in her left breast.

She said, "I pressed against my breast and felt it and cried out,'Oh!' "

But when she went to a doctor, she was turned down.

She had no insurance.

"I was devastated. I couldn't believe it! I even told him, what do you mean you can't help me?" recounted Polido-Scott.

Then she learned about a program at St. Francis Medical Center that provides free mammograms.

"Our goal is to reach out to medically under-served woman," explained Tusi Toomata-Mayer, the program director.

The program also reaches out to high risk groups.

Toomata-Mayer said, "Native Hawaiians are the highest mortality rate because they're diagnosed late."

She says Filipino women and Pacific Islanders are also at risk.

But it's difficult to reach these groups.

"Being Samoan, I know prevention is not apart of our culture. It's when you're sick, then you go see a doctor," said Toomata-Mayer.

But the program aims to break down these barriers.

"We talk story. Once we get that trust, they're more willing to talk about themselves," said Toomata-Mayer.

As for Polido-Scott, she finally got the help she needed.

She had a lumpectomy two weeks ago.

She explained, "I was going into surgery and I was telling the nurses that this is my special day. I was so excited, that is being taken care of."