Breast cancer remains the most common cancer and cause of cancer death among the Latina community

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in women. Approximately, 1 in 8 American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.  In 2017, over 250,000 American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.  An additional 63,000 patients will be diagnosed with carcinoma in situ.  Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is non-invasive breast cancer. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a condition that increases the risk of invasive breast cancer.  Over 40,000 patients will die of breast cancer this year. Breast cancer can also occur in men but is much less common. Approximately, 2500 men will be diagnosed this year.

The incidence of breast cancer has been decreasing since 2000. This may be partially due to decreased hormonal replacement therapy in post-menopausal women. Despite the decreasing rates, breast cancer remains the most common cancer and cause of cancer death among the Latina community. The incidence of breast cancer in Latinas is less than Caucasian women.  This is believed to be due to Latina women are more likely to give birth to their first child at a younger age and have more children. Both these events appear to be protective against breast cancer.

Mammograms are the preferred screening modality for breast cancer.  There is considerable controversy between the various medical societies regarding when to start screening. However, most breast surgeons recommend at age 40, women should be engaged in a shared decision process with their health care provider.  Between the ages of 45-55, women should undergo mammography annually. From age 55-75, a screening mammogram should be performed every 1-2 years.  Beyond the age of 75, the decision to discontinue screening mammography should be based on a shared decision making process. Women with a family history may require screening at an earlier age.

Rates of screening mammography are lower among Latina women compared to Caucasian women. Only 61% of Latina over the age of 40 have undergone a screening mammogram in the last 2 years. Latina women tend to be diagnosed with later stages of breast cancer. This is likely due to lower screening rates, limited access to care, cultural difference, and poor follow up after abnormal studies.

Let’s encourage our community to get screened and prevent breast cancer.  Learn more about reducing cancer care disparities in the Latino community at the Annual Latino Health Symposium.

Joaquin J. Estrada, MD

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