Hispanic Women and Breast Cancer

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October is breast cancer awareness month. It is the most common diagnosed cancer among Hispanic women. Anabell Castro Thomson, member of the Board of Directors of the Phoenix Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For The Cure, talks about how this disease is affecting Latinas.

Josè Càrdenas: October is breast cancer awareness month. Breast cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer among Hispanic women. With me to talk about why this group of women is at a higher risk is Anabell Castro Thompson, a member of the board of directors of the Phoenix affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the cure. Welcome to "Horizonte."

Anabell Castro Thompson: Thank you.

Josè Càrdenas: Tell us how you got involved with Susan G Komen.

Anabell Castro Thompson: Susan G Komen, I originally got involved because they were looking for a health care provider to do some of the education out in the community, particularly train the volunteers in English and Spanish so we can engage the community.

Josè Càrdenas: And you are a health care practitioner?

Anabell Castro Thompson: Yes, I am a nurse practitioner for hospice of the valley.

Josè Càrdenas: Originally from Mexico, so that's the basis where your Spanish speaking expertise.

Anabell Castro Thompson: Yes.

Josè Càrdenas: Tell us about the -- before we get to what Susan G. Komen is doing, let's talk about the problem. Hispanic women, don't necessarily have a higher incidence of breast cancer, but they have a higher mortality rate.
Anabell Castro Thompson: Absolutely.

Josè Càrdenas: Why is that?

Anabell Castro Thompson: You know, when we look at the statistics, you're correct. They don't get a lot of cancer, but when we do get it we extend to be diagnosed a lot later than our counterparts. And also, when we're diagnosed, the tumors that we find particularly localized to the breast, tends to be larger in size.

Josè Càrdenas: And the -- there are a number of reasons as I understand it for why diagnosis occurs later, part of it is culture.

Anabell Castro Thompson: And I would say a big part of it is cultural. There are certain barriers that Hispanic women face. Particularly we don't want anyone to be looking at us and to be touching us. I think another --

Josè Càrdenas: So they're reluctant to go in for a physical examination.

Anabell Castro Thompson: Absolutely. And most of them don't have a continuity of care to start. So a regular provider that they visit when there's no access to health care insurance, but even when they do, the reluctance to go for somebody to see the breast is certainly one of the barriers. The other one I tend to see a lot is, that if you know something is already wrong in the breast, you don't want the confirmation of knowing that there's a potential for a diagnosis in breast cancer. And then last but not least, Hispanic women care for their immediate family, their extended family, the friends, the neighbors; there's a high sense of solidarity, but in doing that you tend to leave yourself last.

Josè Càrdenas: So it's almost a sense of obligation to others that prevents from you taking care of yourself.

Anabell Castro Thompson: Absolutely.

Josè Càrdenas: So what is Susan G. Komen doing about this?

Anabell Castro Thompson: Susan G. Komen understands if we're going to fight the cause, if the promise is to end breast cancer forever, educating women, providing access to care, and then energizing science to find a cure, we need specific strategies to address the Hispanic community. For that we have done a number of things that we put in place so that we can better engage the Hispanic community. One of the things that we're doing is we formed a council. It is called the communities of color leadership council. It is formed of leaders in the community from all the different races. We have African-American, Asian-Pacific, Native American, Hispanic, refugees, and what we do is in identifying that we have different population, different histories, traditions and cultures here, we want to be specific to the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: Some of those other groups share some of these cultural inhibitions?

Anabell Castro Thompson: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Josè Càrdenas: So what are some of the Hispanics community focused activities that you're involved in?

Anabell Castro Thompson: Some of the things we've done, particularly this year, we have always had volunteers that go out to the community to spread the message. We either in health fairs or speaking engagements. This year we've trained our first class of Spanish-speaking volunteers. These are people that are going to be able to go out to the community and target people in their language. Provide the education, people will open up more to you, they will learn the resources out in the community, and in that, their awareness of breast cancer and the disease will be greater.

Josè Càrdenas: And is it also the case that the diagnostic tools have improved? There's been a lot of discussion recently about whether mammograms at a certain age are helpful or not, but at least the instrumentalities are better than they were before.

Anabell Castro Thompson: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, we now have 3D mammography. And this is a three-dimensional mammography which many are seeing as a way that is going to avoid women that have to go through some procedures that are unnecessary. You will be able to see the tissue and what's around the tissue so you have better imaging of the breast cancer if it's found in the breast.

Josè Càrdenas: The volunteers that you have required to speak to predominantly Spanish speakers, what kind of training do you give them?

Anabell Castro Thompson: It's an extensive training. Particularly because we want them to understand first the organization of Susan G. Komen, we want them to be informed as to the resources that Susan G Komen can offer and then we also give breast health information so that they're able to disseminate some information to the community.

Josè Càrdenas: Anabell Castro Thompson, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this very important topic.

Anabell Castro Thompson: Thank you.

Anabell Castro Thomson:Member, Board of Directors, Phoenix Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For The Cure;

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