By Ana Hernandez-Bravo
October is the time of year in which much of the public’s attention is drawn to information about breast cancer. There are numerous fundraisers, educational materials, and awareness spots that aim to continue the fight against breast cancer.
The Hispanic community should also take part in these important steps to assess their risk factors and to inspire prevention.
While cancer comes in second to heart disease as the leading cause of death of in the Hispanic community, it should not be underestimated.
With numbers ranging up to 11,000 expected cancer-related deaths in Hispanic women, it is important to examine risks and consider methods of cancer prevention.
One such risk is that of obesity. According to the American Cancer Society, almost 80 percent of Hispanic men and women are overweight. Obesity and not maintaining a proper weigh have been linked to increased cancer risks. Increasing exercise is a good way to start. Having 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity is the new recommendation. Moderate activities include walking, dancing, cycling, skating, golfing, and mowing the lawn while vigorous activities are more along the lines of jogging or running, weight training, aerobics, swimming, soccer, or racquetball. In addition to increasing exercise, a healthy diet is also important. Indulging in unhealthy dietary habits comes quite easy due to the increasingly busy lifestyles of today, but in the interests of one’s health it would be better to indulge less and balance our meals. Foods such a vegetables offer many health benefits and should be integrated into our daily consumption habits in an effort to reduce our calorie intake.
Other cancer risk increasing behaviors such as smoking and drinking are also important factors that should be examined and discussed with a health physician. Taking steps to alter these lifestyle choices can be another way to lower one’s risk of getting cancer.
Another risk is a low percentage of cancer screening. Without these screenings, it is difficult to properly assess and detect the possible beginnings of breast cancer. A yearly mammogram is designed to catch breast cancer early in order to have a higher success rate in treating it. Many women wait until symptoms are present to get screened which can greatly affect what treatment options are available depending on how far advanced the cancer is. Women should also keep in mind that the longer they wait, the more time they are giving the cancer to spread which will result in even more difficulties.
October 20 has been designated as “National Mammography Day” in efforts to remind women to have a yearly mammogram after the age of 40 or to at least be able to discuss their risks and possible prevention methods with their physicians.
However, for many women it is difficult enough just to see a doctor and even more difficult to get specialized care. Yet, these women do have a chance to find a way to get a cancer screening. By contacting the local National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program at 1-800- 511-2300, they can find out if they qualify for a free or low cost mammogram and where they can go to get screened. The program can be reached Monday through Friday 9am - 7pm and is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
Prevention is not just about informing oneself. It is also about taking what you have learned and sharing it with others who can also benefit from the knowledge. Take time this month to inform a friend, co-worker, or loved one about the importance of cancer screening, exercise, and a healthy diet in the fight against breast cancer.