Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. However, while Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for celebration, it is also a time to focus on the challenges still facing America's diverse Latino community.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic women and the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Latinas. Compared with non-Hispanic white women, breast cancer is more likely to be detected in Hispanic women when it has reached a more advanced stage and when treatments are less successful. Moreover, the American Cancer Society estimates that Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women diagnosed at a similar age and stage.
These differences exist in part because of barriers to good health, access to treatment, and lower rates of mammograms and cancer screening disparities among Hispanic groups. For instance, in 2012 it was estimated that nearly one-third of Latinos did not have health insurance. However, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it is possible for Hispanics to gain access to coverage and take action necessary to prevent breast cancer and detect it as early as possible.
Breast cancer screenings look for signs of cancer before a woman has symptoms. Screening can help find breast cancer early, when it's most treatable. Two tests are commonly used to screen for breast cancer:
ÔÇó Mammograms- A safe, low-dose x-ray exam of the breasts to look for changes that are not normal. Starting at age 40, women should have screening mammograms every 1-2 years. Depending on factors such as family history and your general health, your doctor may recommend a mammogram before age 40.
ÔÇó Clinical breast exam (CBE)- The doctor looks at and feels the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. Ask your doctor if you need a CBE.
There are also steps you can take to reduce your breast cancer risk, such as limiting how much alcohol you drink and being physically active.
Do your part to improve your health, and the health of the Hispanic community. Make an appointment to see your doctor and learn more about how the Affordable Care Act and health insurance plans can help you take charge of your health and well-being.