"Should I Worry?": Latinas and Breast Cancer

"I wonder if this is anything I should worry about." This thought has crossed the minds of many women I know and love. Regardless of your socio-economic background or ethnicity, breast cancer is a frightening word loaded with "what ifs." For many of us with access to medical and adequate health coverage, our worries are rested after a doctor visit or screening shows we are cancer free. However, for women who lack the luxury of health coverage, early detection becomes a luxury they cannot afford.

More than 14,000 of the estimated 200,000 cases of breast cancer expected in the U.S. this year will occur among the Latina population; more than 2,200 women of Latin origin will die. In order to stem breast cancer deaths in women in the nation's fastest-growing population group, screening, education and support programs are critical. The latest statistics show that with early detection, breast cancer can be beaten in 99 percent of all cases.

Yet, according to recent studies, the majority of Latinas are diagnosed in Stage 4. Hispanic women show lower breast cancer screening rates than non-Hispanic/Latina White women and tend to seek and attain health care services less frequently than other ethnic groups. However, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Hispanic/Latina women.
Recent data indicates a hard truth that is too often ignored. Although, Hispanic women are less likely to have mammogram screenings and more likely to be diagnosed at later stages of breast cancer, they in fact have lower breast cancer rates (83.5 per 100,000) but are more likely to die from the disease. Studies consistently show that low income, low educational attainment, lack of health insurance, inability to speak English, lack of awareness of breast cancer risks and screening methods, acculturation level and lack of physician referral play important roles in the lower rates of screening utilization by Hispanic/Latina women.
Organizations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world's leading breast cancer organization, are initiating major new outreach to dramatically improve cancer screening, education and outreach in the Latina community. In the last two years alone, Susan G. Komen has awarded more than $76 million in grants benefitting Latinas across the country. In this effort, LULAC can be instrumental because of our commitment to offer support in this outreach.

When I was a young girl, we didn't talk about breast cancer. Now, we must not only talk about it, but be sure that all women have access to proper screenings and treatments. We need to ensure that Hispanic women have the knowledge and medical care to put an end to this disease. Breast cancer affects everyone, not just the person diagnosed. Likewise, everyone needs to do their part to minimize the risks within our community.