Latinas Battling Cancer

Photo from http://alas-wings.org.

At  Milpitas High School, the American Cancer Society Club is promoting cancer awareness to the student body. “We offered additional information such as ‘Words to Know’, where we defined words and phrases like ‘Quality of Life’ and ‘Malignant’. We also offer free booklets and pamphlets to people who were interested in learning more. People should know the facts to reduce their risk and fear of developing cancer,” said Ariel B., Junior and Vice President of Milpitas High School’s American Cancer Society.

The cancer awareness project was created when the “American Cancer Society submitted an informative project to Milpitas High’s Science Fair. The tri-fold poster was filled with information on the three most common cancers among teens: blood cancer, brain cancer, and bone cancer,” explained Ariel.

Latinas and Cancer

One in three Hispanic women will be diagnosed with some type of cancer while they live. 1 out of 6 of these Hispanic women will die because of cancer (American Cancer Society).

“Cancer grows when a cell’s DNA is damaged. How or why the cell becomes damaged is still unknown,”  explained Ariel.

Hispanics are often diagnosed in the late stages of cancer. At these stages, the disease is more likely to have spread to organs which surround the initial point where the cancer developed. Hispanic women are also more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors because of the late diagnosis. According the the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the most common cancer among Hispanic women.

Reasons for a late diagnosis

Two thirds of Hispanic women will discover they have breast cancer during a self-exam. Less than a third will find out they have breast cancer through the usual detection method, a mammogram, according to Science Weekly.

Hispanics are more likely to be unable to afford health insurance. As a result, Hispanics have limited access to healthcare, likely influencing the low screening numbers among Hispanics. Hispanics also have less help from professionals and less guidance from doctors to help them take actions to prevent cancer. According the U.S Census Bureau, in 2007, 33 % of Hispanics were uninsured.

Hispanics often lack an understanding of cancer. Having a limited understanding of English doesn’t help.

“My parents don’t go to the doctor as often because they have trouble speaking to their doctor. They don’t feel helped. And they don’t want to be billed for that,” explains Orizema Cruz, Junior at Milpitas High School and daughter of Mexican immigrants.

She, like many Hispanics, has parents who are limited to services and information due to language barriers.

Risks

The National Breast Cancer Foundation found that genetics, the environment, or most likely a combination of the both, are linked to the origins of cancer. Promoting cancer education to the Hispanic community could encourage earlier detection and healthier lifestyles among Hispanics.

Myths discouraging the Hispanic community to learn about cancer can be stopped through educating the public. Such actions can end the belief that cancer is caused by sleeping with a bra on or using an antiperspirant, or  even the belief that one’s risk of breast cancer increases as the size of your breasts increase. Additionally, this will help end the misinformation passed down from adults to the youth.

Two main established risks factors increasing the risk of developing cancer is obesity and family history.  The National Cancer Institute found that an educational program can promote a healthy lifestyle to Hispanics, who have one of the highest number of obesity. Even if cancer has not affected your family, according to the National Cancer Institute, 70 % of women without a family history of cancer will still develop breast cancer. One’s risk factor can also be reduced by losing some weight if obese, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking or drinking excessively.

Awareness

Citlali Cabrera, a 10 year old from Milpitas, CA , is aware of her family history of cancer. She explains, “My aunts have had breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I know I need to start taking care of myself so I don’t get ill, too. I drink water, eat healthy food, take care of myself, and I don’t eat that much junk food.”

“I want to help people with cancer. Last month, I asked family and friends if  they wanted to donate to the American Cancer Society’s Discovery Shop.  I feel happy helping out,” explained Citlali, who helps out the American Cancer Society on the weekends.

Like Citlali, take the steps to reducing your risk of cancer. It’s simple: know the facts and the risks. The more you know about cancer, the less you fear cancer. Your efforts towards awareness can save lives.

 

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