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Hispanic Women and Their Doctors [Video]

In this video, celebrity Rita Moreno, American Cancer Society physicians and real-life cancer survivors offer tips for cancer screening and working with your doctor. [Versión en español disponible aquí]

Narrator: Family. It is the central focus of Hispanic life. If you are a Hispanic woman, perhaps you tend to put the needs of your family – in front of your own. But remember, to care for your family, YOU need to be healthy! And that means being on guard against cancer.

Rita Moreno: We need to take the time to practice preventive care. In my view – that is the true gift of love!

Narrator: Rita Moreno stays healthy for her family – for herself – and for her award winning career as a performer.

Whatever motivates YOU to be healthy – this program will help. Find out how other Hispanic American women are taking action against cancer. So you can, too.

Patricia Rodriguez, MD: Women in general tend to put their families first before their health. I think it’s probably even a little bit more the case for Hispanic women.

Narrator: About 42-thousand Hispanic women get cancer every year. But they are less likely to get diagnosed early than the rest of the population. That’s especially sad, because finding cancer early can make treatment more effective. So to protect your health, you need to ask your doctor about getting tested, or “screened.”

Elmer Huerta, MD: Women should not wait until they get a symptom to see the doctor. The ideal situation is that they should see a doctor before they get the symptom. It’s like taking your car to the shop for a tune-up. You take your car before it breaks down!

Narrator: Checking for cancer in people who have no symptoms is called “screening.”

Patricia Rodriguez, MD: Just because we have no symptoms or signs of cancer does not mean that we do not have cancer. Many of the cancers can be found with tests before they’re visible or they cause any symptoms.

Diana E. Ramos MD, MPH: It’s when we wait a longer period of time that the survival rate goes down. So it’s very important to get those early screenings.

Narrator: One simple way is to be aware of changes in your breasts.

Patricia Rodriguez, MD: And what that means is that a woman needs to know what her breast feels like.

Narrator: You can notice changes by being aware of how your breasts normally look and feel and by feeling your breasts for changes. Many women use a step-by-step approach called a self-exam and a specific schedule. If you choose to do a step-by-step self-exam, ask your healthcare provider to show you how. If you feel or see anything different in your breast, nipple or the area under your arms called the lymph nodes while you are doing your self-exam, bathing, getting dressed, or any other time – you should contact your doctor right away.

Dr. Ramos: So we start out superficial, and go deeper and deeper, and we do that continuously in a circular motion.

Narrator: That same exam should be repeated during regular checkups with the doctor. That’s called a clinical breast exam.

Narrator: The most important way to find breast cancer as early as possible is to have a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Women with certain risk factors may need some other tests in addition to regular mammograms.

Diana E. Ramos MD, MPH: The ideal combination of exams is determined by the patient’s history, and the health care provider, so it’s important that the patient speak with her physician or health care provider to see what’s best for her.

Narrator: If you’re 50 years old, or older, you should be screened for cancers in the lower part of the digestive system: the colon and rectum. This can range from a test you do at home and send to a laboratory – to a procedure that allows the doctor to see what’s going on inside your body.

Diana E. Ramos MD, MPH: And that using is a camera that is placed into the colon where you can visualize any abnormality in the sigmoid portion of the colon. And another is the colonoscopy, that the camera goes up higher into the colon and we can also get some biopsies doing that – with the colonoscopy.

Narrator: Everyone 50 or older should choose one of these tests, but if a parent or close relative have had colon or rectal cancer – let your doctor know, because you might need to be screened at a younger age.

Narrator: You can help your doctor, by preparing for each visit. If language is an issue, when you make the appointment, ask for a translator to be available. Write down your questions and bring them with you. You might also want to bring along a family member or friend – to help you understand and remember what the doctor says. And ask your health care professional to make sure you are getting the screenings you need.

Rita: At the end of the day, we have to be our own best friend. We owe it not only to ourselves – but to our families.

Narrator: For more information about cancer and resources available in your community, contact your American Cancer Society. We are here and we can help.