Soraya, the Latina songwriter and performer was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer at the height of her musical career. She was 31 years old. On her official website you can read how her mother, grandmother, and aunt had been taken from her by cancer, which prompted her to publicly acknowledge her battle with the disease.
After a bilateral mastectomy and a long treatment, she penned a song about her struggle entitled No One Else, and successfully returned to her career as a singer. Unfortunately, after a two-year remission, cancer struck again and Soraya died in May of 2006. She left behind the legacy of her music and her book: Soraya, A Life of Music, A Legacy of Hope
More recently, Eva Evkall, former Miss Venezuela, has recounted in her book Fuera de Foco (Out of Focus) how she was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent chemotherapy, radiation, a mastectomy, and eventually recovered, all this while taking care of her child and working in the media. The book, according to an article by Carolyn Salazar has become a hit in Venezuela, and is making women more aware of cancer.
Breast cancer is the type of cancer most widely diagnosed in Latina women. Although there is a lower incidence of breast cancer in Hispanic/Latina women compared to other ethnicities, there is a higher death rate from the disease. According to the Latina Breast Cancer Agency, this is because as a whole, only 38% of Latinas over 40 years old have yearly mammograms.
Unfortunately when the cancer is detected in the later stages, treatment is less effective.
Although there may be a hereditary predisposition to certain kinds of cancer, the best way to protect yourself, is to take steps towards early detection:
• In your early 20s, start doing monthly breast self-examinations. It’s important to always do them at the same time of your menstrual cycle and to know what your breast feels like when it’s healthy. Every woman’s breasts are different – some have denser tissues, others have implants—so you must become familiar with them before you can be comfortable doing a breast self-examination. If you are unsure of how to do a self-exam, ask your doctor to show you hands-on at your yearly visit.
• Undergo a clinical breast exam once a year. This is performed during your yearly medical check-up, either with your OB/GYN or family practitioner.
• After the age of 40, undergo a yearly or bi-yearly screening mammogram as indicated by your doctor. It is a small price to pay for the possibility of early detection. A mammogram is an X-ray of the inner breast tissue and it can show abnormalities that would not be detected by a manual breast exam.
Resources for Breast Cancer Awareness
Latina Breast Cancer Agency
This is an organization in San Francisco that focuses on enabling Latinas to obtain the best health care, including screening for breast cancer, diagnostics, and treatment.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer for Latinas
This is an online community for Latina women who have been affected by breast cancer. It includes the latest news on breast cancer research and treatment, articles, and FAQs.
Cancer.org / Early Detection
Here you can find everything related to breast cancer early detection, including detailed information on how to perform self-exams, what are the risk factors, mammograms, and treatment.