Background and Context:
Breast cancer is the most common cancer and most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Malaysia. 50% of breast cancer deaths in Malaysia are attributable to late presentation and lack of treatment. Although community based awareness programmes including “Friend to Friend” and “Black Barbershop” have been successfully implemented in other countries to reduce late presentation, there have been limited studies on such programmes in Asia.
Aim: To reduce late presentation of breast cancer in the Malaysian community by training hairdressers to become community champions for cancer awareness
Strategy/Tactics: Malaysian women go to salons to be pampered and often build good relationships with their hairdressers. By engaging with women in a safe non-clinical environment, we aim to reduce the fear associated with finding out more about breast cancer.
Programme/Policy Process: The pilot programme was run in the suburban town of Shah Alam where there is low knowledge of breast cancer and <10% uptake of mammographic screening. Through door-to-door visits, telephone calls and through the Malaysian Hairdressers Association, hairdressers were invited to participate in a one-day training on key preventive measures for breast cancer, and they were provided with breast cancer awareness packs and free mammogram vouchers to be distributed to their clients. Breast cancer knowledge was assessed before and after the programme using “Breast Cancer Awareness Measures” questionnaires.
Outcomes/What was learned: Of 60 salons approached in a 4-week period, 16 salons agreed to participate and 32 hairdressers attended training. Of these, 8 salons (50%) distributed the breast cancer awareness packs. Breast cancer knowledge improved by a mean of 80%. Collectively, the eight salons distributed 800 breast cancer awareness packs to their clients within 6 months. Taken together, our pilot study suggests that training hairdressers as community awareness champions is feasible in an Asian middle income country.