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UBC Theses and Dissertations

South Asian immigrant women’s access to and experiences with breast and cervical cancer screening services in Canada Habib, Sanzida Zohra


A qualitative feminist study, informed by social constructionist epistemology, antiracist theories and intersectionality perspectives, was conducted in order to understand South Asian immigrant women’s access to and experiences with breast and cervical cancer screening services in Canada. Particular attention was paid to the wider context of their lives and their experiences of migration, resettlement, integration and general access to the Canadian healthcare system. The study also explored how the broader systems, structures and policies in Canadian society shape South Asian immigrant women’s participation in and access to cancer screening services. Thirty one South Asian immigrant women were interviewed in individual, couple and group settings in greater Vancouver. Research findings indicated that women’s age, length of stay since immigration, educational and generational status, not/having a family history or symptoms impact their use or lack of use of cancer screening services; but these factors also intersect in complex ways with various systemic and structural issues including not having a recommendation from physicians, women’s financial instability, access to income, employment, settlement services and community resources, levels of socioeconomic integration and familiarity with the Canadian healthcare system, and gender roles and responsibilities. Women’s narratives also showed that the immigration factor amplify the intersecting forms of inequities and the social determinants of health such as gender, class, poverty, racialization and discrimination, and affect women’s physical and mental health and access to healthcare services, cancer screening being one of them. An intersectional analysis revealed that the gendered and racialized immigration and integration policies, multicultural discourses and neoliberal ideologies and practices intersect to situate South Asian immigrant women into racialized and disadvantaged situations as the ‘other’ wherein access to preventive cancer screening services becomes especially challenging. South Asian women’s access to cancer screening and other healthcare services needs to be understood beyond the attempts to know their cultural health beliefs and practices, and beyond the neoliberal ideas of ‘self-care,’ ‘individual responsibility,’ ‘patient empowerment,’ and ‘culturally sensitive care.’ Also, equitable access to health care cannot be ensured without resisting these women’s racialized position as the ‘other’ and addressing the social, political, historical, material and structural inequities in Canadian society.

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