Latinas and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of death among Hispanic women. In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we asked Olivia Fe, executive director and founder of the Latina Breast Cancer Agency ( -- an advocacy group based in San Francisco -- about what Latinas can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer. 

1.   Do Self-Checks. “Early detection is critical to survival,” says Fe, whose organization educates Latinas on breast cancer and helps them get access to early detection and timely treatment. “While a breast self-exam is not a substitute for an exam done by your physician, you know your body best so by doing monthly self exams you’re more likely to detect any changes in your breasts.”

2.   Know Your Family History. Knowledge of your family’s history of breast cancer will help you and your doctor decide on the best course of preventative action for you.

3.   Be Your Own Advocate. Speak up, ask questions -- and get a second opinion if you’re not satisfied with your doctor’s responses.

4.   Get Yearly Exams. Annual clinical breast exams performed by a physician are recommended for women ages 40 and older, and every one to three years for women ages 20 to 39. Yearly mammograms are also recommended for women over 40. Enhanced breast cancer screening -- such as more frequent clinical breast exams, annual MRIs, or mammograms before the age of 40 -- may be recommended for women at high risk of breast cancer.

5.   Live a Healthy Lifestyle. Studies show that eating healthy and exercising at least 30 minutes every day can help lower your chances of breast cancer. Eat a variety of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains and oily fish (like salmon and tuna). Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol -- all of which can increase your risk of breast cancer.

by Ivette Manners