Your Health Matters: Leading cause of cancer fatalities in Hispanics may be attributed to culture


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s one of the leading causes of death in the Hispanic community; cancer. With the number of cases in the hundreds of thousands every year, medical experts say a lot of it is preventable and even curable.

While the cancer is the disease, doctors say it’s misinformation and fear of the diagnosis that has many people waiting until it’s too late to get treatment.

“My mother, like many beautiful Hispanic and Latin women who are strong, and graceful, and determined, never lost her smile,” said Alma Gonzales.

For Gonzales , her mother Rosita was the cornerstone of the family. In 2011 Gonzales’ family lost Rosita to cancer.

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“When she became ill, she hid her illness from us. It was not until she was in Stage 4 of her illness that she just was in so much pain that she was willing to go to someone to talk about what was happening with her,” said Gonzales.

“We’ve had this idea that cancer is incurable, and cancer is very curable as long as it’s detected early,” said Dr.Javier Torres-Roca, a Senior Member in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Dr. Torres-Roca says the four deadliest cancer’s among Latinos are lung cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer (women), and prostate cancer (men).

“The cancer’s that are most deadly can be identified early one with appropriate screening,” said Dr. Torres-Roca.

He battles not only cancer but stigma’s within the Hispanic culture that can sometimes keep patients from getting the right treatment in time to save lives. There’s a fear of going to the doctor and knowing the diagnosis. Here are some tips for getting cancer screenings.

“Tenemos mucho orgullo. We’re very proud people,” said “So often folks are too proud to admit that they’re ill or they may be afraid, or they may believe that it will go away.”

Cancer doesn’t go away. Unfortunately, it’s someone’s child, brother, sister, father, or mother.

The other fear that many in the community might have is that they won’t get treatment if they don’t have medical insurance or citizenship papers. Organizations like the American Cancer Society have programs in place to help.

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