Think pink, hermanas! October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we here at New Latina want to do our part in spreading awareness on how Latinas are affected by breast cancer and what programs are dedicated to providing the Latina community with detection, treatment and support options!
Latinas and Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Latinas. Though Latinas have lower rates of breast cancer than white women, Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages of the disease, leading to tumors that are more difficult to treat. According to Lazos Que Perduran, a Susan B. Komen for the Cure campaign targeted towards Latinas, when detected early, there is a 99% chance of recovery from breast cancer. However when detected later, chances of recovery drop to approximately 23%. Even when breast cancer is detected early in Latinas, their tumors tend to be larger and harder to treat than the tumors detected in white patients. Additionally, Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at younger ages than women from other racial groups. All of these facts are troubling, but what continues to be more troubling, is that many Latinas go on never having learned these facts, at all.
Though it is currently unknown why Latinas are being diagnosed with larger and more difficult to treat tumors, or why younger Latinas are being diagnosed with the disease so early in their lives, the prevalence of Latinas being diagnosed in later stages of breast cancer is preventable. At present, Latinas in the United States are the more likely than any other group to have no regular source of healthcare; up to 30% of Latinas are uninsured. That, coupled with the fact that some language barriers, lack of transportation, lack of child care and immigration status, Latinas are less likely than any other racial group in America to seek out early-detection cancer screening services.
There are, however, many programs currently in place to help English and Spanish speaking Latinas procure detection, treatment and support options. Organizations such as Nueva-Vida.org are dedicated to providing Latinas with facts about breast cancer detection, referrals to low or no cost care providers, guidance throughout screening, detection and treatment, as well as support for survivors. Susan G. Koman For The Cure has also contributed to spreading awareness, detection and guidance for Latinas, creating the Lazos Que Perduran campaign just last year. Lazos Que Perduran is targeted primarily towards 20-39 year old Latinas, siting that this demographic of Latinas are, “strong advocates for their families and their communities; we know that they will be active messengers for breast health in the women they care about”, and has utilized social media, television and pop icons to engage, educate and help these women to spread the news. The campaign has also contributed more than $91 million in funds for community programs and scientific research, including $8 million earmarked for research grants for scientists studying genetics and societal issues that contribute to breast cancer in Latinas.
The first step is to fighting breast cancer is a practice strong, smart and innovative Latinas are no stranger to, and that is educating yourself and those around you. Be proactive and ask family about any family history of breast cancer. Schedule annual screenings with your doctor if you are over the age of 40. And give yourself a self breast exam every month, approximately 7 days after your period. To learn how to conduct a self breast exam, click here. Use social media to share your findings with your friends, family and colleagues. Maybe even forward this article to them! But most importantly, keep learning and teaching, all year round. Breast cancer does not exist exclusively in the month of October. Discourse surrounding the disease and it’s mortality rate within the Latina community needs to be continuous. Remember, we won’t stop until breast cancer does!