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Overcoming barriers to cancer prevention in minority communities

Overcoming barriers to cancer prevention in minority communities

Written by  Facing Cancer Together
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Why is it important to have a conversation about minorities and cancer?   Dr. Oralia Dominic of Penn State Hershey College of Medicine says, “When you hear the word ‘cancer,’ you associate it with a death sentence. 20 or 30 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of hope. But today, in 2012, we are more advanced in what we know and the tools that are available to detect and, treat and prevent the disease.  My hopes for this conversation are that individuals are inspired and encouraged to take action and take control of their health.“

latino-coupleDiane McElwain an RN, OCN at the York Cancer Center part of WellSpan Health, adds that this conversation is an important one to have because there are steps that people can take to change lifestyle and behaviors that could reduce cancer risk, like smoking and diet.

In this episode of Radio Smart Talk, we'll look at minority populations and cancer with particular attention on the myths that surround African-Americans and Latinos and cancer.

Listen to their conversation:

According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2009-2011, Latinos have the lowest incidents in new cancer cases among all cancer types. Although this group has the lowest rates, there is a high mortality rate and premature death from cancer. Dr. Dominic explains that this is due to the late detection of cancer when it is most difficult to treat. There are barriers like lack of insurance and geographic location that may make it difficult for some to have access to medical care.

latino-at-doctorBut, Dr. Dominic has found in research in rural communities that even those with insurance are not getting their regular cancer screenings. She found that they went to the doctor once a symptom presented itself like blood in their stools. “It’s no longer prevention at that stage,” she says.

McElwain knows that more education is needed to encourage people within minority communities to take action about their health. “It’s constant education,” at churches, senior centers, community buildings, and soup kitchens that will make a difference. She has seen many busy women, in particular, who know what they need to do to stay healthy, but just aren’t making the time. Some are raising grandkids and are putting their own health on the backburner.

african-american-grandmaShe’s working with ethnic leaders to ask members of their community to first, listen- then, take action. Action is what is needed to make the right choices for prevention and early detection that could save lives.

Dr. Dominic adds that conversations about screening and health need to take place between patients and their doctors. And, people need to know what screening programs and opportunities are available to them, "Because it’s not about whether you have insurance, are underinsured or don’t have it at all," she says. "There are screenings available, it’s just knowing where." She says that there are many programs that are working to promote health among minority communities with a culturally sensitive and respectful approach.

latino-fatherResources mentioned in the program:

Hamilton Health

The Appalachia Community Cancer Network (ACCN)

Harrisburg Community Cancer Network

Community Sciences and Health Outcomes Core 


Related article:

Skin cancer and minorities at risk

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