TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — “They’re always the last ones to take care of themselves,” says Moffitt Cancer Center community outreach worker Jeannette Palencia referring to Hispanic women. Palencia’s program “Yo Me Cuido,” Spanish for “I take care” offers breast cancer education and treatment to Hispanic women in the Tampa Bay area.
New research reveals Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, and therefore less likely to survive. Late screening is why, and Palencia says it’s because these women are often neglecting their own health while caring for elderly parents, children and grandchildren. Another obstacle is the language barrier for non-English speakers, and access to healthcare and insurance. That’s especially true for foreign-born Hispanic women that are new to the United States and are from countries where screenings aren’t as prevalent.
Moffitt Cancer Center Radiation Oncologist Dr. Robert Diaz explains another reason is fear. “Fear is taboo and they’re always afraid that, what if they find something? They think that by not taking action it will go away. It will not go away,” says Dr. Diaz.
That fear is being addressed through education seminars at churches and other gathering places. It’s this education that helped program participant Maximina San Juan decide to get a breast cancer screening. She tells News Channel 8 she wants to take care of herself and know that she’s fine because she hasn’t been screened.
That’s what Palencia and other program workers want to hear; Hispanic women having an epiphany about the importance of early detection and taking care of themselves so they can continue to take care of their loved ones. They hope it trickles down through generations of Latinas in our Hispanic community to someday change the statistics.
Palencia says, “My children look up to me and I have to set the example that they should take care of their bodies, because we only have one.”