Breast Cancer in Hispanics

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Current statistics show that Hispanic women are less likely to develop breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women. Despite this, breast cancer is still the most common cancer among Hispanic women in the United States and the leading cause of cancer death in this group. 17,100 Hispanic women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, and more than 2,400 were expected to die of the disease. Also, Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed after their breast cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage, and are more likely to die from their breast cancer, than non-Hispanic white women diagnosed at the same age and stage. 

Since these facts cannot be ignored, Hispanic woman need to know the most important facts about breast cancer:

  • Mammograms are x-ray pictures of the breast that can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no cancer symptoms (screening mammogram).  Detecting breast cancer with screening mammography allows for effective treatment, usually before breast cancer has spread. Mammograms done every 1 to 2 years can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74, especially for those over age 50. 
  • If you notice any changes in how your breasts look or feel, check with your healthcare provider. Don’t ignore any symptoms. Most changes will not be from breast cancer, but they should always be checked.
  • Treatment is the same for all ethnicities, and involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and medications (chemotherapy and/ or hormone blocking therapy). 
  • More than four out of five Hispanic women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. 

Many risk factors that can increase your chance of developing breast cancer have been identified. Some cannot be changed, like your age or a history of breast cancer in your family. Having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will get breast cancer. Some risk factors can be modified, especially those that Hispanic woman adopt when living in America:

  • Breastfeeding and having children reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Women considering hormone therapy for menopause should know that combination therapy––which includes both estrogen and progestin––increases the risk for breast cancer. 
  • Exercise may help lower breast cancer risk. Physical activity should be a part of your everyday life, even as little as 4 hours a week.
  • Being obese after you reach menopause increases your risk for breast cancer, so you should maintain a healthy weight at any age. 
  • A diet low in fat, low in sugar and high in fiber may reduce your risk of breast cancer.
  • Drinking alcohol can increase your breast cancer risk.  

To help you get and stay healthy, most private health insurance plans and Medicare cover mammograms, and counseling on obesity, alcohol misuse, exercise and nutrition.

References:

National Cancer Institute, Lifelines: Useful Information about Breast Cancer for Hispanic Women.  https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/media-resources/multicultural/lifelines/2013/lifelines-breast-cancer-hispanic-2013.pdf

Nelson, R. Breast Cancer Risk Varies Among Mexican-Born and American-Born Hispanics. In Medscape: February 09, 2009. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/588029