In November 2009 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new recommendations for the screening of breast cancer. The most alarming changes where that women should not begin mammography screening until the age of 50, and that they should be done every other year instead of annually. The USPSTF also recommended AGAINST self-breast exams.
So, what does this mean for Latinas? Well, seeing as how very little public education was done to communicate these new guidelines to the general public, chances are, these new guidelines have yet to reach our constituencies. We can also be sure that these guidelines did not take into account Latinas and our social economic status or our access to equitable health care.
Although it is true that two thirds of breast cancer in Hispanic women are found through self-exam, according to a study presented in the US News, Hispanic women also tend to wait at least one month to see a doctor about it; the main reason being little to no access to health care. Also, of these two-thirds of Latinas, how many of them were able to access affordable and equitable treatment? As most articles have stated, detection is not prevention.
The biggest problems with these guidelines were the way they were communicated and the timing of their release (during the tumultuous health care debate). In December, the USPSTF promised to update the language of the recommendations, but the damage had already been done.
The bottom line is this: continue doing what you think is best for you! Talk to your doctor and come up with a screening schedule that you and your provider are 100% comfortable with. Last, trust your instincts because you are the only one who knows your body, so be your own health advocate!
By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern