I am proud of my sister for many reasons. Among them: this weekend, she will be participating in the “Walk for a Cure” to raise money for breast cancer research. When she told me about it, and about all the work that goes into training for such an event as well as the peculiarities of such an endurance trial (apparently, it is not uncommon for women to lose toe nails either while preparing for the walk or during the walk itself), I was struck by my activist sister, taking it to the streets!
No stranger to public demonstrations and awareness raising, this was a cause I have considered important, but not one that has called my attention specifically. Unfortunately, it seems that I am not alone in lending too little consideration to this important issue. Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among Latina women in the U.S. and the world. It’s time to think carefully about “the ladies” and the ways in which we can help to keep ourselves safe and healthy.
Breast cancer is one of the cancers that is related to hormones within the body. Incidentally, reducing the risk of breast cancer is one of the most important reasons I recommend everyone to spay their female dogs and cats when they are young. In humans, we must rely on careful vigilance and screening in order to catch any potential problems early and thus maximize the possibilities for a happy outcome for ourselves and our families. As Latinas, we are not so successful at this. Although breast cancer is diagnosed less frequently overall in the Latina population than in Caucasian women, when it is diagnosed, it tends to be later in the course of the disease when options for treatment are fewer and more radical in nature.
Previous articles in the magazine have explored the lack of comprehensive health care for Latinos in this country. Here is an excellent example of the real world consequences. Without access to routine medical attention, women may miss some of the important symptoms and screening tests that otherwise might save their lives. The front line of defense is YOU, amiga! The monthly self-exam is crucial not only for learning what is normal for your body, but also to alert you to the possibility that there may be a problem. No doctor required to perform this possibly life saving exam.
Latinas over 40 should make it a ritual to have yearly mammograms. If you need financial help with the cost of this screening, there may be help available to you (in Spanish if needed). Contact your local health department or community center for options. If you are fortunate enough to have insurance, take advantage and do not skip this possible life saving measure. It is our responsibility, as women, mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, friends, to take our boobies in our own hands, so to speak, and be our own advocates. Tell a friend today!