October is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As everything goes pink, so increases the awareness among the population about this terrible disease that affects millions of women and families worldwide.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. Approximately, 246,000 women are diagnosed each year. But what is more surprising is that it is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanics, according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately 2,800 Hispanic women died because of breast cancer in 2015 in the U.S.

Imelda Vaquera-Torres (center), breast cancer survivor, stands with her family. Photo credit: Ashley Landis, Staff Photographer / Dallas News
Imelda Vaquera-Torres (center), breast cancer survivor, stands with her family. Photo credit: Ashley Landis, Staff Photographer / Dallas News

Breast Cancer: The leading cause of death among Hispanic women

Breast Cancer diagnoses are always hard for a woman and their loved ones. Besides the physical effects, there is also an emotional part of the disease that is born by the whole family and friends around the patient. Most women, especially the active ones, feel bad because the pain that carried with cancer doesn’t let them do the things they were used to do in their regular routines.

Imelda Vaquera-Torres suffered this. She has always been the rock of the family. After work, she cooked dinner and maintained her home. But everything changed after a lump was found in her breast and the chemotherapy treatments started.

“I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “The pain was so intense. My bones hurt.”

Her body ached with disabling pain and it even damaged her appetite. Her two kids helped her in everything they could. And his husband, Oscar Torres, had to take a double shift as a manager at Wendy’s to sustain the family while making possible his presence in every medical appointment his wife had.

Imelda first tried to keep cancer a secret. She said she was so angry because it has happened to her. She even visited doctors on her own at first. But though Imelda didn’t want to worry her kids and family, Alexandra, her daughter, said that she knew something was going on. Imelda decided to tell the family one day, and it was very hard a circumstance.

Imelda: ‘Our faith as a family never wavered’

 It’s been five years since Imelda was diagnosed stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. She thanks her family for the support. It was certainly a fight they all had. As well, she said that religion played a major role during those hard times.

Dr. Radha Iyengar, a breast surgeon at Texas Health Physicians Group in Allen, said that families have a crucial role in the fight against cancer of the patient.

“I definitely do think that the Hispanic family tends to be a more extended family in general,” Iyengar said. “Hispanics have mom, dad, kids, grandparents and aunts and uncles. With those supportive options, when you’re going through treatment, it’s a reasonable hypothesis to believe it helps patients.”

As well Maria Gonzales, a program manager at the Bridge Breast Network, said that Hispanics tend to bring at least seven people to the medical appointments. She said it is fine as long as there is room for the entire family. Half of her patients are Latinas. But these patients usually don’t have the economic means to fight against such an aggressive disease.

Hispanics tend to bring at least seven people to the medical appointments. Photo credit: Getty Images
Hispanics tend to bring at least seven people to the medical appointments. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Breast Cancer paradox among Latinas

The breast cancer incidence rate among Hispanic women is 28 percent lower than the one of the non-Hispanic white women. However, it is the leading cause of death among Hispanic. This could be because Hispanic women’s cancer is way more aggressive and more invasive than those of the rest of the women.

Grace Wang, a breast oncologist says that she has noticed that Hispanic patients are usually young and their cancer is always diagnosed at an advanced stage. She believes that though it could be due to Hispanics’ diet or genetics, it is probably related to the access to healthcare. Most of the time, they are diagnosed when there is little to do about cancer, and they are less likely to receive the appropriate treatment.

Despite the previous, research also shows that Hispanic women have a better survival rate than black and Asian women who are also diagnosed. In the study “Cancer Survival Among Latinos and the Hispanic Paradox,” researchers explain why Hispanics – even if they are diagnosed at an advanced stage – tend to have a survival rate that exceeds what is expected. According to this study, 69 percent of U.S born Latinas diagnosed with breast cancer between 1995 and 2006 in Florida and Texas, had a had a five-year survival rate, while black women cases were at 63 percent.

Dr. Paulo Pinheiro – associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Nevada and lead researcher of the study – said that he believed the reason for the paradox is the faith of the Latino patients. They are united and the optimism and support shown by the patients’ family through the disease.

“Those with a low socioeconomic status that lived in an enclave of a higher concentration of Hispanics saw a better survival rate, which could support the argument of family as a factor that may affect survival rate,” Pinheiro added.

However, Hispanics continue to face obstacles, including the insurance availability, the lack of financial resources, low education and language barriers.

Source: Dallas News