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Oral Cancer Prevention

#PapChat- A discussion

Join us for our #PapChat Instagram series as we talk with women about their Pap test experiences!


Daanis Chosa (Bois Forte Band of Chippewa), says she was nervous before her first Pap test at 18 because she didn’t know how it was going to go. In reality, “for the actual experience, they make you feel comfortable, give you time to get undressed and relax. Then it’s smooth sailing. The first time I thought it was going to hurt, but it didn’t. I remember feeling a pinch, but that was really it. There wasn’t any pain, instead, it felt like pressure.” #PapChat


Regarding the stigma surrounding cervical cancer, Melanie Plucinski (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Ojibwe) feels that not talking about HPV is dangerous. “It is critical for us to remove that stigma. It can literally save lives. The majority of HPV diagnoses don’t lead to cancer if women are screened regularly. This is important to know so that women can maintain their health. I would be willing to talk to anyone about getting a Pap. Pap testing is not something to be afraid of.” #PapChat


As AICAF’s Community Health Education Specialist, Joy Rivera (Haudenosaunee) knows the importance of talking about screening. “The more people who tell their stories, the easier it gets. Like with breast cancer screening, the more stories I hear in the community, the more it reminds me to stay on schedule. I appreciate people in a community who are willing to share their experiences, especially elders.” #PapChat


When it comes to giving advice to young women getting their first Pap tests, Amber Cardinal (Arikara, Hidatsa, and Ojibwa) thinks of what she would tell her younger sisters: “Make sure that you get them. As often as they are allowed. Be honest with your doctor. Go in with an open mind. Just do it, even if it’s awkward, uncomfortable or ‘the worst thing ever,’ you just gotta do it.” #PapChat


Leading AICAF’s cervical cancer programming, Health Programs Specialist Laura Roberts BA (Red Lake Ojibwe and Santee Dakota) has advice for women getting Pap tests: “Listen to your discomforts. If it doesn’t feel right between you and your doctor or clinic, you should look for something else. Pap tests are very private, so you should go to a clinic where you feel welcome.” #PapChat

Robert DesJarlait

July 29, 2019

When the emcee called for cancer survivors to come out to the floor at the 2013 Powwow for Hope, Robert DesJarlait (Red Lake Band of Chippewa) walked out to the shock of all those around him. “It was an emotional experience” Robert said, reflecting on his decision to go public for the first time about his cancer story.

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Elnora knew her breast cancer risk and made healthy changes in her life: she quit smoking in 2000, started running and always got an annual mammogram.

In 2011 at the age of 64, Elnora had a suspicious mammogram that required follow up with a biopsy. The results were negative but required another mammogram in 6 months, this time the next mammogram and biopsy came back cancerous. She was diagnosed with Invasive Duct Carcinoma Stage 1. “I didn’t have time for breast cancer”, Elnora declared. Although she was optimistic with her diagnosis, she still didn’t tell anyone. The IHS Women’s Wellness Program reached out to Elnora and encouraged her to tell her son. In doing so, he became her biggest support system. The breast cancer diagnosis led to a PET scan, which found 2 other primary cancer sites in her thyroid and lungs, that showed no symptoms. Elnora endured three different cancer surgeries in one year.

Elnora’s running club, Cherokee Runners, offered support and walked with Elnora in her first Relay for Life. The Cherokee Cancer Support Group was also a strong support system that reached out to Elnora and offered financial support during treatment and emotional support that contributed to her healing. Today, Elnora is cancer-free and volunteers with the Cherokee Cancer Support Group. The advice she shares with other American Indian and Alaskan Native Women is, “Get your screenings, my cancer was found early because I did screenings on time. I am also thankful for breast cancer because it helped find other cancers in my body.”


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