UMC Breast Cancer Center doctor, Dr. Candy Arentz, is leading a study funded by the National Institutes of Health which centers on the occurrence of breast cancer among Latin women. She seeks to accomplish this by sampling 2,000 Hispanic women who’ve had or have breast cancer.
Dr. Arentz has obtained 100 women’s saliva in order to analyze their DNA make-up. Her study, however, will not include other predisposing factors to breast cancer such as obesity and lifestyle choices, and will only focus on statistics drawn from genetic data. Despite this limitation, Dr. Arentz hopes to be able to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on breast cancer as it affects Latin women because of their minimal involvement in medical studies in general.
According to NBC Latino:
While breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Hispanic women, according to the American Cancer Society, it is less likely to be diagnosed in early stages in Hispanic compared to non-Hispanic women.
“For some Hispanic women, talking to your male physician about your breast is not appropriate,” says Dr. Arentz, “so we have to raise awareness in minority communities so maybe the shame may be lessened.”
Margie Olivarez, a Latin woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer, made the bold decision to have a double mastectomy to eliminate recurrence of the disease, and has been making it a personal mission to raise breast cancer awareness in Lubbock, Texas, and to participate in gene studies. She says that the more women participate in breast cancer studies, the better it will be for women who might acquire or have acquired the disease.
This is particularly important for Latin women who as a group, according to the American Cancer Society, Latin women are currently less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in its early stages compared to non-Hispanic women, primarily due to substandard access to healthcare in poorer Hispanic communities. It is the hope of researchers like Dr. Arentz that the benefits of her new discovery will not only lead to improved understanding and treatment for Latin women who develop cancer, but also an increase in education and awareness that the breast cancer threat is particularly serious in the Latino community.