Numerous Factors Including Language Barriers, Lack of Insurance Prevent Hispanic Women in Texas From Receiving Mammograms
Language barriers, a lack of health insurance and cultural differences all are likely causes behind low mammogram rates among Hispanic women in Texas, state health experts say, the Austin American-Statesmen reports.
Thirty-eight percent of Hispanic women in Texas did not receive a routine mammogram last year, compared with 21% of blacks and 27% of whites, according to CDC data. Breast cancer has become the leading cause of death among Hispanic women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cultural factors are one way to explain the low mammogram rates. Patricia Chalela, a health care researcher in San Antonio who has examined the low rate of mammograms among Hispanic women, said, "Hispanics don't see a doctor if they don't feel sick." She added that many Hispanic women "always think in terms of family first" and that women "are the ones that take care of the family. So any needs that they have are put last." She added that many clinics providing mammograms do not offer services in Spanish.
Eduardo Sanchez, a former Texas health commissioner, said, "Those without insurance are less likely to receive preventive services, screening and the treatment that goes with early detection." According to Sanchez, Hispanics "are much more likely to not have insurance than blacks, who are only slightly less likely to have insurance than whites." Federal data show that 55% of Hispanics in Texas were uninsured in 2005, compared with 25% of blacks and 14% of whites in Texas, the American-Statesman reports.
Low-income women have access to no-cost mammograms through a state program. However, state health official Margaret Mendez said the state receives enough funding to reach only about 3% of the more than 700,000 women eligible for the program. Mendez said, "It has been our experience that when you provide a service and people know about it, that they are actually very happy to be informed about it and to participate."
Mary Lou Adams, who is on the nursing faculty at the University of Texas-Austin, recommended increased outreach and funding efforts. "It's one thing to go tell people to go get screened, but you have to tell them where to go and how this is going to be funded," Adams said (Jaspin, Austin American-Statesmen, 6/18).