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by: Charlotte Libov | from: AARP VIVA
When Juan Florez turned 60, his doctor recommended a colonoscopy.
“I was unfamiliar with the term, so I asked my doctor to describe it,” Florez recalls. “When he did, I said, ‘Oh no, I’m not doing that.’” A year later, when Florez returned for some routine tests, his doctor insisted, and though Florez displayed no symptoms, the tests came back positive for cancer.
“I wished I’d done [the screening] the year before,” says Florez, a retired postmaster living in Holbrook, Arizona. “It was a ‘macho’ thing.”
Juan Nogueras, M.D., chief of staff at Cleveland Clinic Florida, finds this reluctance among Hispanics common — and disturbing.
“Hispanics are not as diligent as non-Hispanics about undergoing screening and, since there are no symptoms for early-stage colon cancer, we tend to present at an advanced stage, when the prognosis is worse,” says Nogueras, a board-certified colorectal surgeon.
Colorectal (colon and rectal) cancer statistics for Hispanics are alarming. It’s the second most commonly diagnosed cancer, and the second cancer-leading cause of death in men, third among women. Each year about 5,500 Hispanic men and 4,900 women are diagnosed with the disease, and about 1,600 men and 1,500 women die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
Colon cancer occurs when polyps, or growths, in the colon become cancerous. During a colonoscopy, a doctor can detect and remove polyps, preventing cancer from occurring.
But people are often reluctant to undergo a colonoscopy because they fear it will be painful (it isn’t; it’s done under sedation); and they don’t want to do the preparation, which involves a thorough colon cleansing.
One reason for the discrepancy is a strong resistance to rectal exams, says Jose Mendoza-Silveiras, M.D., medical consultant and Medical Scientific Advisory Committee member at the Colon Cancer Alliance: “Women, like men, do not want a doctor to touch them there. They feel it is improper.”
Experts also attribute the low screening rates to a general reluctance by Hispanics — especially women — to examine their bodies, an extreme fear of cancer and a lack of resources to deal with serious medical issues should they arise.
Education, experts say, is the best prevention. Key messages include raising awareness of the symptoms, letting Hispanics know that colon cancer is highly treatable and informing them that colonoscopies are done under sedation with no discomfort.
At least two organizations around the country have made colon cancer outreach a key part of their work. One effort is the Hispanic Access Foundation’s national five-year Juntos Podemos Contra el Cáncer campaign. The foundation has pilot programs in Denver, Colorado, and Yakima, Washington, and in 2012 it plans to launch a multifaceted program that includes a major media campaign, community workshops and affiliations with Spanish-language churches and local health professionals.
And then there’s Juan Florez, who has his own one-person word-of-mouth initiative. After his diagnosis, he had surgery and chemotherapy — which he believes he could have avoided if he’d had the colonoscopy when his doctor first recommended it. Now 65 and healthy, Florez considers himself lucky.
“A friend wouldn’t go to the doctor for anything, and he was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, which killed him,” says Florez, who now constantly tells his friends: “Go and get the test, and then you won’t have to have it done again for another five or 10 years. You’ll have gotten it out of the way.”
Read about six ways to prevent colon cancer risk from AARP VIVA.
More than one-fourth of Hispanic adults in the United States lack a regular healthcare provider. Hispanics often face many obstacles when searching for healthcare. Language, financial, and other barriers can make routine annual checkups difficult. When it comes to other treatments or more serious health concerns, such as cancer testing, many face even greater challenges. According to U.S. census data, over 30% of Hispanics do not have health insurance coverage.
But there is some good news. There are many service providers that have reduced or sliding-scale fees. There are also several low-cost health insurance programs available throughout the country. If you work with Hispanics, it is important to let them know that there are healthcare services available for them. Information is power! Here’s why it’s important to help your family and community members find their medical home:
- Regular check-ups are essential to maintaining health and preventing disease. Preventive and annual check-ups can help service providers quickly detect and address any health problems a patient might have before they become more serious.
- A regular doctor will help monitor changes in health over time and will provide patients with more accurate and useful diagnoses in the future.
Don’t know where to start? Here are resources you can provide to help Hispanics in your community find their medical home:
- Search the HAF directory for healthcare providers in your community or a city near you.
- Ask around! Talk to friends, family members, and others in your area for the best healthcare options. Ask them how they like their own doctors.
- Search for federally-funded or low-cost health care centers. Many centers will work with you based on what you can afford, even without health insurance. To search for a center near you, visit: http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/
- Search for a Spanish-speaking doctor at www.doctorfinder.com
- The National Alliance for Hispanic Health also offers a network of healthcare providers at http://www.hispanichealth.org.
For more information about healthcare services and other resources for Hispanics, call the HAF hotline at: 1-800-206-9096
If you’re a service provider, add your listing to our database to make yourself available to Hispanics looking for a medical home in your area. Visit http://recursos.hispanicaccess.org and click ‘Register’ to begin-it’s fast and free.
The National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC) is accepting applications from teens, aged 16–19 from across the country, to attend its upcoming “10th Annual Minority Youth Environmental Training Institute.” The Institute is an intensive, science-based, residential, and highly educational 10 day program to be held in Northern New Mexico this August.
Using classroom and outdoor settings, the Institute is designed to help create the environmental leaders of tomorrow by, educating, engaging, and inspiring youth, especially Latinos and other minorities, to a range of environmental, natural resource and energy topics. It is also designed to provide information on the many college and career opportunities in the environment, and to strongly urge students to pursue these careers in the future.
Students should note that if selected NHEC will provide a full scholarship that will cover all your major costs to attend the 10 day program, including airfare and housing. There is no fee to apply, and only a $25 registration fee if you are selected. Remember that both high school and college students aged 16–19 are eligible to apply.
The Institute will be held at the Glorieta Lifeway Conference Center, located 18 miles east of Santa Fe, NM. All students will be housed at Glorieta. Glorieta is in a beautiful area, with mountains, trails, and national parks and forests nearby, and where much of the Institute’s coursework will be taught.
APPLICATION PROCESS, SELECTION, AND THE INSTITUTE SCHOLARSHIP
The Institute is open to all students in both high school and college, aged 16–19, from the 50 states and Puerto Rico. Latino youth are especially urged to apply, given the severe under-representation of Latinos in environmental fields. Applications will be evaluated as they are received, so applying as soon as possible is strongly encouraged. See the attached “Application Form” and other materials on how to apply. Students can also call or write NHEC for application materials, or go to our web page at: www.nheec.org. However, while students can obtain application forms from our web page, you cannot apply on-line. Completed applications must be mailed to NHEC.
If selected, students will have all major Institute costs covered by NHEC, through a full scholarship. NHEC will pay for students’ round-trip airfare, housing, all meals, educational materials, local transportation in New Mexico, related on-site equipment, and most other costs during the 10 day Institute.
The Institute will begin on Friday, August 12 and end on Sunday, August 21. There will be approximately 30–35 students in the Institute. Once accepted, students will receive materials before they arrive at Glorieta to help them better prepare for the Institute.
The curriculum, to be taught by paid, skilled environmental educators, will begin by covering principles in environmental/conservation and energy topics, and then progress to more advanced concepts, as each day builds on the day before. There is classroom instruction every morning and night, coupled with science-based field studies that complements the class work.
Since a major Institute goal is to introduce Latino/other minority students to nature, students will spend much of their time outdoors, in closely supervised field activities at Glorieta and nearby national parks, forests, and laboratories. Students will also camp overnight for one night at beautiful Abiquiu Lake, north of Glorieta.
The coursework will be rigorous, hands-on and science-based, as well as multicultural. It will emphasize team building and leadership skills, through group challenges and individual responsibility. It will also be fun.
For more information on the opportunity click here.
Most Americans eat diets that are extremely unhealthy. We are used to excessive portions – the average American eats more than 1,700 calories over the recommended daily amount. This lifestyle of over-consumption is a significant (and preventable) factor in the increasing rate of many chronic diseases, including cancer. You can feel healthier, save money, lose weight and lower your risk of disease by maintaining a well balanced diet.
Here are some other basic nutrition tips to help you fight disease and feel healthier:
- Beware foods labeled ‘Reduced Fat’, ‘Light’ or ‘Fat Free’. Many of these foods may be lower in fat, but often have additional sugars or artificial additives.
- Eat “raw” foods that are uncooked and unprocessed, like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- Add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet, such as dark leafy green vegetables, flax seeds, cabbage, grapes, green tea, garlic, whole grains, tomatoes, blueberries, mushrooms and broccoli.
- Cut back on trips to restaurants which serve vastly over-sized meals that are usually high in fat and salt.
- Make sure to include calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods to your diet, such as like milk, cheese, fish and beans.
The Hispanic Access Foundation provides resources to help people make the necessary lifestyle changes for healthier lives. For access to our searchable online database of healthcare providers, go to recursos.hispanicaccess.org. For information about HAF, healthy living and more, call:1-800-206-9096
Colon or colorectal cancer is the second leading type of cancer among men and women of Latino descent. While males are slightly more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer, women are also at risk.
The risk for cancer, including colon cancer, is higher for Hispanics living in the U.S. than in other Spanish-speaking countries, due to factors such as high-fat diets and more sedentary lifestyles.
One of the most important risk factors is family history of the disease, so be sure to let your doctor know about your health background.
There are certain steps everyone can take to lower their colorectal cancer risk, including:
- drinking less alcohol
- eating less fat and red meat
- increasing calcium intake
- regular screening
Both men and women over 50 should get screened for colon cancer annually. Despite lower occurrences of colon cancer compared to other groups, Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with more advanced stages of colon cancer. This is due in part because Hispanics have very low colorectal cancer screening rates. Colon cancer can be treated successfully if detected early, so make sure to ask your doctor for the necessary screening tests, including a colonoscopy.
The Hispanic Access Foundation is committed to helping Hispanics in America live better, healthier lives. We provide a searchable online database of healthcare services for Hispanics in communities across the nation. Search our database for healthcare services near you.
For the statistics supplied in this article as well as other facts about colon and other cancers, view a report on Cancer Risks for Hispanics.