TAMPA, Fla. — According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Hispanic women are about 30% more likely to die from breast cancer than their non-Hispanic counterparts, and that it's due to lack of mammograms and follow-ups.
Researchers at the University of South Florida have developed a study to help those Hispanic women who face the diagnosis of breast cancer.
Dina Martinez Tyson is the principal investigator for the research and shared why it’s important.
“The need from the community and it was identified from working with Latina cancer patients, that this is something that was important, and there wasn’t a lot of resources available or information of how to sort of navigate the space after cancer," Tyson said.
Tyson said the study was developed based on an existing program which they have now adapted for Spanish speakers. The study has 20 couples participating.
Viviana Suarez was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. She said gardening has become a form of therapy for her.
"It’s very important to have a connection with the dirt, and it’s important to have something that can distract you and that will help you overcome the difficult moments," she said.
Aside from gardening, Suarez said her family has been her biggest motivation to keep going.
"Will I be there when they get married? Will I be there for my grandchildren? Will I be there for my partners? They’re all thoughts that come to mind when you start this journey," she said.
She’s not navigating the journey alone. She’s taking part in the USF study that is helping Latinas cope during and after breast cancer.
The study focuses on strengthening relationships through an educational approach which helps to empower the couple.
“It’s important that the husbands educate themselves on the secondary effects, so that they can support and feel like they’re understood as well," she said.
For several years Suarez has been the support system to her Latino community. She is a community outreach worker for Moffitt Cancer Center, and educates Latina women on the signs of breast cancer and the resources available.
The Latina breast cancer research has opened her eyes to the stigma surrounding breast cancer within the Latino community and the affect the disease has.
"You develop a different type of empathy, because they train you to educate, but not about when it’s your turn to go through this process," Suarez said.
As an educator she knows it’s important to take care of her health, just like she takes care of her garden. “I feel very blessed that amongst all this I can still feel god and his grace in all of this," she said.
Everything needs a support system. For Viviana’s plants, it’s the water she provides. For breast cancer patients like herself, it’s the community care that helps them continue fighting.
Researchers of the study say they are looking to have a total of 240 partners which help them strengthen the research for future cancer patients. To learn more, click here.