News Column

Experts Push for Early Breast Health Screenings

Feb 25, 2013

Ellysa Gonzalez

breast cancer

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in Hispanic and African-American women, so local agencies are trying to raise awareness to minority women and encourage them to get screened as soon as possible.

Candy Arentz, assistant professor at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and breast surgical oncologist, said studies show both groups get tested at later stages and uncover more aggressive tumors.

"The mortality rate of people dying from breast cancer is higher in both of those groups," she said.

The reason for the late check-ups is unclear, Arentz said. Part of the reasoning is lack of health care and lack of education on the importance of regular screenings.

"Sometimes patients have no access to health care," she said. "Sometimes it's having to work and not having jobs that provide them time off to get cancer screenings."

The lack of attention to minority breast health is the reason behind a nationwide study to test for genes that cause breast cancer in Hispanic women.

"When we look at most breast cancer models, they ask for generic stuff," Arentz said. "If you put in 'Hispanic,' due to limited numbers when models were created, they're not as accurate. We are specifically targeting the minority poulation to allow us to come up with statistics and numbers and research to help other people."

Clarissa Sanchez, mission coordinator for Komen Lubbock, said the local chapter organizes free screenings for minorities to encourage early screenings.

The last screening was held in January. Sanchez said the event attracted 117 women and resulted in 89 getting scheduled for mammograms. She said the next is scheduled for July.

"We're hoping that if they're screened earlier, breast cancer can be treatable," Sanchez said. "If people wait, those are the people that need chemotherapy. If we catch it early, then we're done."

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Source: (c) 2013 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas)