The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) has awarded a $100,000 grant to University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers to focus on promoting and increasing mammography screening among Latinas in Arizona. Usha Menon, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Jorge Gomez, MD, PhD, have been named the principal investigators for the grant, which is the first funding support that BCRF has awarded to the University of Arizona, home to the only academic health center in the state.
In the United States, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Although mammograms are known to help detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable, decades of research show that minority women, including Latinas, have low breast cancer screening rates.
The researchers behind this project are targeting their efforts on the U.S.-Mexico border population to break down barriers that keep Latinas from scheduling and completing their breast cancer screenings. Specific interventions have been designed to reach women who have not gone to a health-care facility for a mammography screening or have only had a first or second mammography with significant lapses between their appointments.
Dr. Gomez, associate director of the Center for Elimination of Border Health Disparities at the UA Health Sciences and assistant director for cancer outreach at the UA Cancer Center, is an internationally respected global health-care leader with more than 20 years at the National Cancer Institute. “In the Latin American culture, cancer is seen as fatal, and many women don’t want to get breast cancer screenings at all,” said Dr. Gomez. “We want to make sure that Latinas who have encountered language, financial, transportation and cultural barriers or anxiety about having a mammography feel comfortable and understand that screening is a very important step in being healthy. The support from a well-renowned and respected organization like the BCRF will help make this happen.”
The project, which includes partnering with community organizations in and around the City of South Tucson and Nogales, Ariz., involves bi-lingual outreach coordinators who understand the Latino culture, will provide educational information and materials and can easily communicate with the Latina population.
Dr. Menon, associate dean for research and global advances at the UA College of Nursing, explained that using culturally appropriate messages and strategies can boost the number of Latinas who choose to get mammography screening.
“My entire research career has been focused on increasing cancer screening among minority populations,” said Dr. Menon. “It’s an honor for me, Dr. Gomez and our team to join this select cadre of leading scientists who are supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to focus on preventing and finding a cure for breast cancer. We’re not asking why anymore; we are doing something about decreasing cancer disparities in our Hispanic female population.”
In 2016-2017, the BCRF will award $57 million in annual grants to more than 250 scientists from top universities and medical institutions around the world. “As the largest private funder of breast cancer research worldwide, we’re thrilled to have Drs. Gomez and Menon join our roster of the leading minds in science,” said Marc Hurlbert, PhD, chief mission officer of the BCRF.
“Cancer is a beatable and treatable disease,” said Andrew S. Kraft, MD, director of the UA Cancer Center. “Breast cancer screening through mammography provides opportunities for women to make better decisions because the earlier that we can find cancer, the more curable it becomes.”
“By targeting the Latina community, we’re directly addressing two of our four priorities – diminishing health disparities and improving population health,” said Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, MD, UA senior vice president for health sciences. “We applaud the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts to fund innovative research and the best researchers in the world. This allows us to develop a good model that can be used in other Latino communities in the United States to address diseases like colon cancer or cervical cancer. It’s an honor to have two of our best researchers named Breast Cancer Research Foundation investigators at the University of Arizona.”
“Mammography screening saves lives,” said Dr. Gomez. “Information is the key.”