Lately, we’ve been talking about what researchers call the Latino Health Paradox. The mystery of Latino longevity that shows that, a pesar de todo, in spite of all the odds, such as low education, low income, and low access to health care, Latinos still live longer than anyone else in the U.S.
That is good news, Comadres!
But even though we live longer than most people in the U.S., we are not protected from obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. We hear a lot about diabetes in our community, but not that much about cancer, and cancer is a doozy.
Cancer and the Latino community is a very complex topic, but it’s one we think is important for you and your comunidad to understand. (Hint: Prevention and early detection!)
According to the American Cancer Society 2018-2020 report, Latinos and Latinas are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than non-Latino whites overall, but cancer is the leading cause of death among Latinos. (Go figure!)
There are several reasons for this confusing fact. One reason may be that incidence of cancer is just lower among Latinos, which would be very good news, indeed. But another reason might be that Latinos get diagnosed in later stages of cancer when it is too late to cure it. And that is tragic news, Comadres, because many cancers are curable if we catch them early enough.
Another blow to the cancer dilemma among Latinos is that many of us don’t have access to health care. Some simply don’t have the resources to treat cancer when it happens. Many states have cancer early detection programs that are often free or low cost. In some states, there may even be low cost treatment options, but being low income and not having health care is still a huge challenge and one that we need to address. (a discussion for another day).
We have prepared an overview of the cancers that Latinas need to pay extra attention to, and some steps to take to take care of yourself:
Breast cancer is lower among Latinas than non-Latinas in the U.S., but breast cancer is still the leading cause of death among Latinas.
The reason why: breast cancer in Latinas is often found in the advanced stages when it is harder to cure. Latinas don’t get mammograms at the same rate as non-Latina whites. Some of our comadres can’t afford it, but some of them just don’t get mammograms. They’re busy or they’re embarrassed or they just don’t want to deal with it, but they don’t go and that does not end well.
Early detection of breast cancer saves lives.
Although colorectal cancer among Latinos is lower than among Non-Latino Whites, colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among Latinas and Latinos. Colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths among Latinos.
Colorectal cancer is a very treatable cancer, if caught early.
Latinos and Latinas are squeamish when it comes to colorectal cancer screening. (¡Nos da asco!) Latinos undergo colorectal screening less than any other group. And the result of not getting screened is a tragedy that does not have to happen.
What to do:
According to the American Cancer Society, the cervical cancer rate among Latinas is 40% higher than among non-Latina white women. Although cervical cancer rates have gone down over the last few years, it is still too high for us, Comadres!
Cervical cancer is caused by certain kinds of viruses, called HPVs (the human papillomavirus). Sometimes the virus goes away on its own. But over time if HPV doesn’t go away, it can cause cervical cancer.
What to do:
Stomach cancer is higher among Latinas than non-Latina white women. Scientists don’t have a full understanding of stomach cancer yet, but they have linked some stomach cancers to exposure to bacterial infections of the stomach. Some of these infections can be found and treated. More studies are needed to learn more about why Latinos and Latinas are at higher risk of stomach cancers.
What to do:
Gallbladder cancer is higher among Latinas than among non-Latina whites. It is also higher among Latinas than in Latinos. More research is needed on gallbladder cancer and why it is so high among Latinas.
Possible connections are being overweight, being on hormone replacement therapy, and/or if you have had gallstones.
What to do:
We wanted to give you a snapshot of Latinas and cancer, so you can start thinking about it and take action!
There is good news about cancer:
For a deeper dive into Latinos and cancer, read the American Cancer Society report: Cancer and Facts & Figures.
The take-away, Comadres, is this: All roads lead to following a healthy lifestyle program like De Las Mías.
Take back your power and hold on to the Latina Health Paradox! Get your cancer screenings and live to tell the tale! Take charge of your health and your life. You’re driving, Comadre!
Let us know one thing you are doing today to change the cancer story for Latinas!
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics/Latinos. 2018-2020. Atlanta, American Cancer Society, Inc. 2018.