Latinas should learn from Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy because of a high chance of developing cancer due to her family history which she reveals in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times. The American Cancer Society predicts more than 200,000 new cases in 2013 with this disease the most common among Hispanic women. Breast cancer develops earlier in Latinas than in any other ethnic group yet too often, is discovered when it is advanced and hard to treat, according to womenshealth.gov.
Despite these grim statistics, there is hope: the most effective way to beat breast cancer is early detection, giving every generation of women and mothers more opportunities to live long, healthy lives.
Learning about breast health was as easy as walking into the kitchen because my mother was a nurse for nearly 20 years. Mami threw in tips for women’s health as she stirred pots of arroz con pollo. Today I pass on the nightly consulta I got from her:
Nurse Mami's Breast Health Tips
- Perform regular self-breast exams. Three days after the start of your menstrual cycle, examine your breasts in the shower. Bright Pink can show you how—you can even sign up for text message reminders!
- Know your family history. Angelina Jolie knew her chances of getting breast cancer were high because of her mother’s losing battle with this illness. If your mami or grandmother had breast cancer, then you have a higher chance of developing it. My abuela on my father’s side passed away from this disease, so on my next visit I’ll make sure to tell my medical provider.
- Avoid heavy metals such as aluminum chlorohydrates found in underarm deodorants and antiperspirants. Instead, use a crystal deodorant with or without perfume, or apply apple vinegar with a cotton ball. I’ve been using a crystal deodorant for over six months, and it works just as well if not better than the big brands.
- Don’t wait to get a mammogram. The medical community agrees that women should start getting mammograms at age 40. But that might be too late for Latinas. If we are predisposed to getting breast cancer earlier, we may have to start getting mammograms at 35 or younger.
Angelina Jolie made a personal medical choice (and soon says she'll remove her ovaries) that has us talking about this important women's health issue. This is the first step, followed by accessing quality information and health care so our lives aren't cut short.
Marjorie Romeyn-Sanabria is a recent graduate from Wesleyan University, where she majored in East Asian Studies. A long-time lover of culture, languages, and food, Marjorie’s interests have taken her from New York to China and back again. She lives in New York City, where she works for a major insurance agency by day and writes by night.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.Do you think Angelina’s op-ed piece will inspire women to get serious about breast health?