Early Detection is Key to Winning the Fight Against Breast Cancer
Despite all the medical advances in the treatment of breast cancer, two essential factors that may help overcome this terrible illness are prevention and a well-supported treatment plan. Norma Gutiérrez, a breast cancer survivor, attributes a well-timed mammogram and options for the type of treatment she chose to fight her diagnosis of breast cancer, for her successful recovery.
Gutiérrez was one of the special guest speakers on the virtual “Cafecito Time con Equality Health” segment, which was broadcasted September 24 in English and Spanish. The Cafecitos feature in-the-moment dialogue with community members. This event highlighted breast cancer awareness, prevention, and the importance of monthly self-exams and early detection.
Early Detection Saves Lives
According to research conducted by the Susan G. Komen Foundation in 2019, Hispanic/Latina women are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer than white women. Additional research provided by the American Cancer Society states breast cancer is the second highest cause of death by cancer in the United States. The probability of a women dying from this disease is about one in 38. The American Association of Cancer expects that approximately 42,170 women will die from this disease in 2020.
Many of these deaths from breast cancer may be preventable if the cancer is detected at an early stage, which is why it is extremely important for women to perform a self-exam at least once a month and schedule annual mammograms to get screened.
“In my family,” said Gutiérrez during her participation in the Cafecito virtual seminar, “my grandma and mother had breast cancer, which is why I grew up with the fear of this disease.”
Rather than let fear paralyze her and cause her to not take action, Gutiérrez regularly scheduled her annual checkups. That habit saved her life. Right after one of her annual check-ups, Gutiérrez received a call that changed her life forever.
A Life-Changing Diagnosis
“I was about to go on a trip when I received a call about my mammogram results,” Gutiérrez recalled. “At first, I thought it was going to be like the ones before, that everything was normal and that my checkup should be next year. This time my doctor called me directly. He said there was something they should examine further. I returned from the trip and the exam was repeated, this time with a more in-depth mammogram and biopsies from the chest area.”
The diagnosis was demoralizing. They detected cancerous cells in Gutiérrez’s right breast and some traces of the disease in her left breast. The news turned her world upside down.
“I cried when I received the news,” Gutiérrez said, “but my daughters hugged me and said that everything was going to be alright. That gave me strength to continue and fight.”
To increase the possibility of beating breast cancer, the ones closest to us play a huge role. Our families and friends provide unconditional love and support to fight the illness.
“It is very important that people who suffer from breast cancer know and feel that they are not alone against this disease,” commented María Rebozo-Lapine, Manager of Cultural Training at Equality Health, who served as moderator during the Cafecito virtual seminar. “No one should have to face cancer without the company of their family and closest friends.”
Thanks to preventative actions, even though the diagnosis was devastating, Gutiérrez had three treatment options. The first was receiving chemotherapy in the affected breast and monitoring the left breast. The second was a combination of surgical treatment and radiation with close monitoring. The third was a surgery to remove both breasts. Unlike Gutiérrez, a lot of women affected by this disease do not have these treatment options available because they discover the cancer in its advanced stage.
“I decided to go ahead and remove both of my breasts because it was the best option for me,” Gutiérrez said. “I couldn’t be able to live knowing that cancer could affect the other breast.”
Support and Resources Available
Part of Equality Health’s community mission is to provide resources to people who need it the most. After a cancer diagnosis, it is important to use the available resources to face this disease. This is also why Viridiana Zendejas, who is the Director of Programs for the Cancer Support Community Arizona, was also included as a guest speaker in the September 24 “Cafecito Time con Equality Health” conversation. Cancer Support Community Arizona, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to supporting families impacted by cancer.
“We focus on providing emotional and social support for people who suffer from this disease and their families,” Zendejas said. “Our services are completely free and easy to access.”
Zendejas highlighted the importance of support groups, which Cancer Support Community Arizona offers for individuals with cancer and members of the family who have been directly affected by the illness. Cancer patients do not have to take part in services a family member receives.
“Here,” Zendejas said, “not every person’s situation is the same. Not every case is identical. But through these support groups, you can even increase your self-esteem to face the disease.”
It is important to note that within the network of health care providers for Equality Health, there are medical professionals that have the resources to detect breast cancer. Ask if your doctor is a part of the Equality Health Network and schedule your examination today.
Remember, early detection can save your life.
Published in Prensa Arizona, 10/08/2020