Reaching Out: Moffitt Aims to Raise Breast Cancer Awareness Across Cultures
By Robin Williams Adams
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 3:34 a.m.
Moffitt Cancer Center is expanding its multicultural outreach into Polk County to teach Hispanic women, Haitian women and others about lowering risks of breast cancer or catching it early.
"We talk about how the woman needs to take care of herself. We take care of everyone around us; our families, friends and neighbors; but we don't take care of ourselves."
Bartow Regional Medical Center is having a special price for screening mammograms in October, $25 for the exam and $38 for the radiologist's fee, which is billed separately. Call 863-519-1406.
A Yo Me Cuido session, which in English is "I Care For Myself," will be given in Spanish at 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Eloise Resource Center, 710 Snively Ave., in Eloise.
Topics broached will include convincing Hispanic women to have clinical breast exams and mammograms, where to get care if they lack insurance and why they need those exams regularly. There will be a major focus on lowering individual risk through exercise and healthy diet.
Cancer now is the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the United States.
The American Cancer Society's 2012-2014 Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics/Latinos said that, nationwide, 29,935 died of some form of cancer in 2009, a number expected to reach 33,200 in 2012.
For white non-Hispanics, cancer runs second to heart disease as a killer.
Fear, embarrassment and other cultural taboos are among the difficulties encountered by Jeannette Palencia, senior community outreach worker for Moffitt Program for Outreach, Wellness, Education and Resources.
"Fear is the biggest," Palencia said. "?‘What if they find something and I don't have insurance? Am I going to go home and die?' We're trying to break the death mentality."
She recalled a Hispanic woman, 48, who hadn't gone for a mammogram because she felt it was "shameful" and was embarrassed.
"We have seen that in other cultures as well," said Venessa Rivera-Colon, a health educator and Moffitt's M-POWER program manager for outreach.
Moffitt works with a variety of diverse and low-income communities. M-POWER includes screening, counseling and education services for women.
"We created it after seeing so many people coming through our offices waiting until the later stages (of disease) to come to us," Rivera-Colon said.
"We're trying to create a health revolution, that's how I see it, to get people moving, encouraged, informed."
Moffitt is collaborating with Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care in offering programs in Polk. Vivian Norrell, a registered nurse and clinical liaison at Cornerstone, will be the local contact for people seeking one of the programs.
Cornerstone will have copies in Spanish of Cinco Deseos (Five Wishes), an advanced-directive document, at the Oct. 17 event.
Norrell said she wants people to realize advanced directives are something they can do early.
"We have advanced directives to prevent families from getting into hard discussions when people get sick," she said.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Within the Hispanic community, however, likelihood of breast cancer varies. The incidence rate is 50 percent lower in foreign-born women than in Hispanic women born in the U.S.
"We talk about how the woman needs to take care of herself," Palencia said. "We take care of everyone around us; our families, friends and neighbors; but we don't take care of ourselves."
Black women have less reported incidence of breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women, Rivera-Colon said, but they are dying more often.
With some, she said, lack of insurance, fears of institutional racism and lack of trust are stumbling blocks in getting appropriate cancer care.
Moffitt already had this program in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Grant money from the American Cancer Society and the Wal-Mart Foundation let it expand to Polk.
Moffitt refers women to local resources when possible or to its own programs for mammograms.
In Polk County, uninsured women ages 40 to 49 can get free or low-cost mammograms through the We Care Think Pink program, funded by a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Household income can be up to 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
Patients need to have had a clinical breast cancer exam already and a doctor to whom the mammography results will be sent, said Eva Hawkins, program director.
The Think Pink mammogram is free with no co-pay for people whose income is up to 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
The co-pay is $15 for those between 200 percent and 250 percent of poverty level and $25 for those from 250 percent to 300 percent of poverty.
If potential cancer is detected, We Care attempts to find physicians and facilities willing to treat the cancer.
Some get helped locally. Others get referred to Moffitt.
The Polk County Health Department provides routine clinical breast examinations for women during their family planning annual physical, at entry into prenatal care and during the post-partum visits.
In the past, it took an active part in screening women ages 50 to 64 through the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.
When its adult health program became less active, that service stopped being available, spokeswoman Pamela Crain said.
Palencia said women can be referred to Moffitt services in Hillsborough County if affordable local resources aren't available.
[ Robin Williams Adams can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7558. Read her blog at robinsrx.blogs.theledger.com. Follow on Twitter @ledgerROBIN. ]
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