Pink Sari Launches CanInfo And Care For South Asians Impacted By Cancer

The grassroots organisation strives to close the cancer awareness and support gap in South Asian communities.

Pink Sari president Shanthi Vishwanathan and Pink Sari volunteer members at the launch of CanInfo and Care.

Pink Sari president Shantha Vishwanathan and Pink Sari members at the CanInfo and Care launch. Image Source: Draw Your Box

The C word: cancer. It doesn't discriminate against gender, skin colour or where you live in the world – and in 2022, 1 in 50 people had cancer in Australia. In the past year, I've learned of a few South Asian people in my extended community circles being diagnosed with cancer or losing loved ones to cancer. I've also discovered that it's been a particularly isolating time for many of these people and their families, not just because of the serious nature of their diagnoses, but also because of other factors such as a lack of support or information – which can be particularly difficult to obtain in culturally and linguistically diverse communities due to language and other access barriers.

Over the past decade, grassroots organisation Pink Sari Inc has strived to help close this gap, particularly when it comes to improving breast cancer screening rates. When it launched in 2014, it was supposed to increase screening rates by 5% within the first two years, but managed to achieve a 17% boost, as I've previously reported here.

Run by a group of female volunteers within the South Asian community, Pink Sari has hosted community lunches, worn pink to cricket matches and multicultural parades, and provided culturally tailored information to brown communities in NSW.

This month, Pink Sari Inc launched CanInfo and Care, a pilot project that hopes to better support South Asian cancer patients and their carers across all cancer.

Supported by the Cancer Institute NSW, it "provides a suite of culturally relevant support services including individual and group information sessions as well as connections to resources and services" including assistance in navigating "Medicare and private health insurance, dietary needs, interpreters, counselling, transport and financial assistance."

Announcing the initiative at an official launch event in Parramatta earlier this month, Pink Sari highlighted the importance of South Asians not having to face cancer alone.

Community advocate Sumati Advani was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011 and breast cancer in 2018 (now in remission). In 2022, a scan revealed the thyroid cancer had returned. Speaking at the launch event, Advani said it's often a challenge to encourage more people in CALD, and particularly South Asian communities, to actively get screenings to detect cancer early. But more awareness about an issue that impacts so many people can potentially spark more open conversations, consequently lessening the taboo around cancer and encouraging proactivity. 

“As a triple cancer survivor, I’m happy to share my experience with you, mainly so that I can incentivise people to do their cancer screening – because each time I have been able to manage my cancer early, it’s because I was detected early,” Advani said at the event. 

Having lived in Australia for the past 45 years, Advani has an established support network around her. But she emphasised how isolating the experience of facing cancer can be, particularly for newer South Asian migrants. 

Ultimately, as it states in its new CanInfo and Care brochure, Pink Sari strives to lessen the impact of cancer on South Asian communities and be the extended support network to patients and carers: “We speak your language. We understand your journey. We would like to support you along the way.” 

For more information about Pink Sari or CanInfo and Care, you can email or visit the official website here.

@leeshiev No one deserves to face cancer alone 💗🙏🏾 #cancer #southasian #desitok #pinksari #indian ♬ original sound - alicia_vrajlal