Education, experts say, is the best prevention. Key messages include raising awareness of the symptoms, letting Hispanics know that colon cancer is highly treatable and informing them that colonoscopies are done under sedation with no discomfort.
At least two organizations around the country have made colon cancer outreach a key part of their work. One effort is the Hispanic Access Foundation’s national five-year Juntos Podemos Contra el Cáncer! campaign. The foundation has pilot programs in Denver, Colorado, and Yakima, Washington, and in 2012 it plans to launch a multifaceted program that includes a major media campaign, community workshops and affiliations with Spanish-language churches and local health professionals.
The Baltimore-based Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation, less formally called “Susie’s Cause,” also has a Hispanic outreach program. It promotes screening with bilingual materials at its National Health Fair Tour for Underserved Communities and its Save Our Parents Program, what it calls “an interactive hands-on mini medical school” that teaches people of all ages the basics of colon cancer screening so they’ll spread the word to their parents.
And then there’s Juan Florez, who has his own one-person word-of-mouth initiative. After his diagnosis, he had surgery and chemotherapy — which he believes he could have avoided if he’d had the colonoscopy when his doctor first recommended it. Now 65 and healthy, Florez considers himself lucky.
“A friend wouldn’t go to the doctor for anything, and he was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, which killed him,” says Florez, who now constantly tells his friends: “Go and get the test, and then you won’t have to have it done again for another five or 10 years. You’ll have gotten it out of the way.”