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For Hispanics, a Unique Cancer Profile Emerges
Date:9/15/2009

ispanics are also more likely than whites to be diagnosed with breast and melanoma cancers at a later stage, when the cancers are more difficult to treat and have spread to other organs.

Cokkinides said that programs targeting Spanish-speakers about the importance of screening and risk factors for cancer could help, as could programs to increase access to medical insurance and medical care.

But one challenge in developing such programs, she said, is that the U.S. Hispanic population is diverse, with variations in country of origin, length of time in the United States, educational attainment and experience and knowledge of the health-care system.

"Things like mammograms and Pap smears aren't necessarily routine where people are coming from," Cokkinides said.

Yet certain lessons should be stressed across all cultures, she said.

"Avoidance of tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a largely plant-based diet, minimizing alcohol consumption and exercising is good advice for everybody," Cokkinides said.

Hilary Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford, Conn., said that it's not uncommon for Hispanic women to be diagnosed with later-stage cancers that could have been picked up sooner through proper screenings. The council runs a Spanish-language cancer support group for Hispanic women, in addition to its research and advocacy functions.

"There's a real lack of support for culturally appropriate and linguistically appropriate services for them," Waldman said.

And though many big-city hospitals have interpreters, smaller or suburban hospitals often don't, she said, adding that the complexity of cancer and its often-complicated treatment plans and serious side effects make interpreters all the more important.

In the support groups, Waldman said, women often talk about their distress in not being able to understand their doctors -- or having thei
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