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Latinas Contra Cancer
LATINAS CONTRA CANCER
While Latinx communities may not experience cancer as often as their non-Hispanic white counterparts, disparities still exist. California-based organization Latinas Contra Cancer is working to change that.

According to a 2018 CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians statistics report, cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics/Latinx in the U.S. Furthermore, rates of infection-related cancers, such as liver, are also twice as high compared to non-Hispanic white demographics. Late-stage diagnoses are also more common among Hispanics/Latinx, which can be linked to lower screening rates, lack of awareness and various socioeconomic obstacles like being uninsured.

An inclusive health care system is key to sufficiently addressing these disparities, and Latinas Contra Cancer is helping make that a reality for Latinx warriors in San Jose, Calif.

In San Jose, Latinx and Hispanics make up 31.6 percent of the population. Since 2003, Latinas Contra Cancer has partnered with nonprofits, schools, churches, health care systems, universities and government entities to educate over 5,000 individuals within this underserved group on options for cancer prevention and care.

“We use culturally appropriate events to engage residents in screening activities and when needed match them with a promotora—a vetted peer from a similar background to that of our clients who is trained to help clients navigate cancer and the various health systems with which they may interact,” the organization’s website states.

Latinas Contra Cancer was created by journalist and cancer warrior Ysabel Duron and continues to be Latina-led. It creates effective and culturally competent programming that addresses language barriers, limited resources, lack of cancer awareness and fear of pain or deportation.

According to Latinas Contra Cancer, Latinas are less likely to perform breast self-exams, get mammograms or seek medical care when they suspect something is wrong. This is why the organization emphasizes health education and adequate patient navigation resources as top priority for the community.

The education provided by Latinas Contra Cancer “encourages informed decision-making; patient empowerment; the diminishing of myths; and open dialogue free from shame and judgment.” Health education events hosted by the organization use interactive information tables and “cancer education bingos” similar to Loteria to teach facts and dispel misinformation about cancer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these events have moved to interactive Zoom sessions.

Patient navigation is another important aspect of Latinas Contra Cancer’s work. The medical system can be confusing to begin with, and a language barrier doesn’t make it any clearer. “Navigating the health care system is a challenge, especially for those whose primary language is not English,” says the organization.

Latinas Contra Cancer’s patient navigation team provides “translation services; assistance with scheduling, tracking and attending appointments; guidance related to cancer support groups; referrals and help with signing up for free to low-cost insurance and care programs; and resources for food security, violence prevention, emergency housing, transportation [and] childcare support” so Latinx warriors can focus on their health.

Additionally, Latinas Contra Cancer launched “Defensoras: Health Care Advocate Training,” a new 8-week program that explores topics including patient rights, health care justice and treatment navigation in order to empower the Latinx community.

Empowerment doesn’t only come from the inside, though; Latinas Contra Cancer recently expanded into the boutique business with a shop featuring wigs, caps, silicone breast prostheses and adaptive mastectomy garments. High-quality items of this variety aren’t cheap, but the organization makes sure Latinx warriors and thrivers have what they need regardless of finances.

“We work to ensure all women who have been diagnosed with cancer have access to the support they need through survivorship regardless of their income, other barriers or whether or not their insurance covers their needs,” the organization says.

Latinas Contra Cancer also recognizes that it doesn’t necessarily get easier once you’re cancer-free. It currently hosts one of the only monthly psychosocial support groups in Spanish in the San Jose area. 

Free spa days, beauty days and family event days are also held throughout the year, and Latinas Contra Cancer provides one-on-one counseling for any interested warriors. Through these programs, Latinas Contra Cancer goes above and beyond to provide support for every step of the cancer journey.

“At Latinas Contra Cancer, we ensure no one battles cancer alone,” the organization says. “By overcoming obstacles caused by a health care system that places an extra burden on those already struggling through economic or social barriers, our clients have powerful stories of resilience and community.”

For more information on Latinas Contra Cancer, visit latinascontracancer.org.

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