New Breast Cancer Rules You Need to Know If You're Latina
Think you know everything there is to know about breast cancer? Probably not: There are stubborn misconceptions out there about the disease in Latinas, but experts GBL spoke with say it's time to set the record straight.
"Latinas sometimes feel breast cancer isn’t something to worry about since we have a lower incidence of the disease than white women do," says Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.PH, professor at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and associate director of cancer prevention and health disparities at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center. While it’s true that Hispanics are less likely to get breast cancer than Caucasians, we’re actually 20 percent more likely to die from it than white women diagnosed at a similar age and stage, according to the American Cancer Society. Pero, ¿por qué? Partly because Latinas have a higher chance of getting a rare and more aggressive type of cancer on which hormone therapies don’t work. But the rest depends on early detection and timely treatment. So make your health a priority.
"Latinas tend to put themselves last for health care," says Ramirez. "After the whole family is taken care of, then perhaps she’ll go in for screening." No more! This is what you — and all the women in your familia — need to do to stay safe.
1. Don't Delay Mammograms
Only about 61 percent of Latinas over age 40 have had a mammogram in the previous two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with nearly 68 percent of white women. There may be cultural barriers to explain this: "In our research we've seen that some Latinas believe myths like getting too many mammograms will lead to breast cancer," says Ramirez. This couldn't be further from the truth. "Mammography is the best tool that exists to find breast cancer as early as possible, when most cases are treatable," says Edith A. Perez, M.D., chair of the Breast Cancer Specialty Council at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.
What to do: At your next doctor’s appointment, talk to your M.D. about when you should start annual mammography. Most women need to begin at age 40, but higher-risk women (for example, those with two first-degree relatives — hermanas, madres — with breast or ovarian cancer) should start 10 years earlier.
2. Get the Best Care You Possibly Can
It’s become the gold standard to test tumors to find out whether chemotherapy will help reduce the risk of recurrence. But Latinas get this testing less often than women of other races, according to a new University of California at Los Angeles study. The study also found that 15 percent of Hispanic breast cancer patients with tumors that didn’t require chemo received it anyway. Chemo increases costs and can cause side effects like nausea, fatigue, and hair loss. A cancer center where doctors are up on the latest guidelines and treatments can help shepherd you through everything. After all, navigating the health care system can be intimidating, especially if English is your second language. "I've personally led studies proving that bilingual, bicultural patient navigation ensures that Latinas are diagnosed and treated in a timely way," says Ramirez.
What to do: If your hospital doesn’t have oncology social workers or nurse navigators, there are free programs to help you find your best care, such as the Livestrong Foundation’s bilingual service (go to intakes.livestrong.org/cancersupport or call 855-220-7777).
3. Stay on Top of It
After an abnormal mammogram or self-discovered lump, Latinas wait up to one week longer, on average, than white women to visit their doctor, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Women's Health. The study also found that we get fewer follow-up mammograms after a breast cancer diagnosis. This lack of subsequent testing has had a strong impact on lower survival rates. "Even with all the progress we've made against breast cancer," says Ramirez, "The Latino community still greatly fears the disease, which might be one of the main reasons we put off testing."
What to do: If you or someone you love has a suspicious lump or has been diagnosed with or treated for breast cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a medical center recognized by the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer (meaning it has CoC accreditation). Many of these have intervention services within their patient navigation programs to ensure health care providers keep in contact with their patients every step of the way.
Now, ¡Para la Lucha!
Here are three pretty products that benefit the fight against breast cancer:
A Firming Cream:
Estée Lauder Resilience Lift Night Firming/Sculpting Face and Neck Créme with Pink Ribbon Bracelet ($86, macys.com; 20 percent of sales goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation)
A Sweet Scent:
Avon Outspoken Party by Fergie eau de parfum ($34 for 1.7 oz., avon.com; $5 from each purchase goes to the Avon Foundation for Women)
A Rosy Lip Color:
Tory Burch Lip Color in Ramble on Rose ($32, toryburch.com; 20 percent of sales goes to the BCRF)
More From Glamour:
• What Would You Do If You Found Out You Had The Breast Cancer Gene Mutation?
• What You Need to Know About the New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
• Breast Cancer Awareness 2015: Pink-Themed Beauty Products That Give Back
• New Study Finds Minority Women With Breast Cancer Get Worse Care
Photo Credit: Getty Images