For Breast Cancer Awareness Month FIERCE‘s editorial team is doing a deep dive into how Latinx women make strides to be proactive about their breast health. It’s a scope that is of particular interest to us considering that when it comes to the women of our community, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer and the greatest threat to our health in terms of cancer death. While non-Hispanic white women are more likely to become aware of breast cancer occurrence in its early stages, Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages. For many of us, proper health care resources and education can literally mean the difference between an early diagnosis and death.
To gather a better understanding of the scale at which Latinas take charge of their health and breasts, women from our FIERCE team shared their own experiences and attitudes about their breasts.
The Latina who still has to learn.
CREDIT: headhousesalon / Instagram
“To be completely honest, I haven’t done anything for my breast health. I have to admit this is completely careless and crazy of me. Seeing all these cases of breast cancer in all of these women [that I see online and Instagram] and this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in general, is a reminder that I cannot just act like it can’t happen to me. I am going to call my gynecologist today and schedule an appointment to get these girls checked out because they need some care as well. I haven’t had any breast scares, thus far. I’m 25, I need to take my breast health more seriously. I’m even embarrassed to say I haven’t done anything to care for my breasts and make sure everything is ok. That’s going to change.” – Jenny
“I’ve been getting breast exams and pap smears from my gynecologist since I started having my period. My mom was the one who taught me about making sure that I give myself monthly breast exams, which I usually do in the shower. I’m so happy that she taught me this because last year I had a pretty intense scare. I was 25 and started to notice that I was having some odd discharge and swelling and I went to the doctor right away. Being in the exam room was pretty heartbreaking because it was the first time I felt really scared for my reproductive health and breasts. Fortunately, after running a bunch of tests I learned that it was just hormonal but it was pretty scary and I continue to make sure that I keep an eye out for breasts on the regular.” – Alex
The one with an annual appointment.
CREDIT: nordstromriverside / Instagram
“My doctor does me a breast exam at my annual visit, and he taught me how to do a self-exam at home. I think that knowing what your breasts look and feel like can help you recognize when something is suddenly different. And it’s always a good idea to be aware of my body and let my doctor know if I notice any changes.” – Yami
“I check my chichis every once in a while. I probably don’t do it as often as I should, but I recall an instance when I was younger and I saw a pamphlet of how important it is to check yourself often. I don’t know why it stuck with me since but it has and I try to check every time I remember. I do the whole raising my arm thing and feeling around for any lumps or abnormalities that weren’t there before, and I look at my skin to make sure I dont have a change in textures or appearance since I know that is also an indicator. My grand aunt passed away from cancer a few years ago, and it had started out as breast cancer that metastasized before she got her double mastectomy. That’s enough to scare me into being proactive and not waiting for it to happen to me.” – Jess
“One of the things I love most about myself is mi piel. My mom taught me early on that if I don’t take care of myself and body it’ll show a lot sooner than later. As I’m becoming older I still call to ask my mom how to do certain things.My mom has always been adamant about self-care and I’m grateful that she taught me to develop a habit of examining my breasts on a regular basis.” – Victoria
The Latina whose parents don’t believe in modern medicine.
CREDIT: penny.illustration/ Instagram
“I am not a really proactive person when it comes to health, and the main reason why is because my parents don’t really believe in doctors. My mom has never had a gynecological exam and has never checked her boobs. Neither has my grandmother. In my family, I’m the one who is more concerned about health. I try to go to the doctor once a year so they can check everything. My family thinks it is a waste of money, they believe more in the natural medicine.” – Donna
“When I was in high school I discovered a small lump in one of my breasts. For a few years, I brushed it off thinking it was probably just the inside of my nipple. To be completely honest, I ignored this because I didn’t have health insurance and didn’t know so many women’s health clinics existed that offer women well exams for little to no money. Once I landed a steady job out of college, I went to my primary health doctor for a physical that was long overdone. She asked the regular sex questions if anything was abnormal down there or in my breasts. I pointed to the spot where I had felt that quarter-sized bump for several years. She agreed that she felt it, but she wasn’t worried since I was in my twenties. She asked if there was pain or change in size. I said no to both. She said it could be a cyst or fluid or just a different type of breast tissue but to be safe, she had me go to a specialist to have an ultrasound done. The specialist confirmed that it was a pocket of fluid and nothing to be worried about for the time being. It’s comforting to know abnormalities are normal and at least in my experience, no one makes a fuchie face, but rather these vulnerable conversations are encouraged and so are regular check-ups.” – Wendy