BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It is critical for women to start getting regular mammograms after they turn 40 and Roswell Park has several outreach programs to help women through the process, which can sometimes be scary. One of those programs is directed at Hispanic women and it is called Esperanza y Vida.
“It’s very scary for them, especially in the Hispanic community. It’s a big taboo,” Jomary Colon, Esperanza y Vida program coordinator at Roswell Park, told News 4.
A cancer diagnosis is scary for any patient, but imagine having a language barrier, making the diagnosis increasingly complex and terrifying. Esperanza y Vida at Roswell Park hopes to help with that. The outreach program employs community members like Colon, who can help translate and answer questions Spanish-speaking patients may have.
One out of eight Hispanic women are diagnosed with breast cancer. By educating the community in Buffalo, Jomary hopes to break the taboo for Latino families.
“The families don’t speak about it. I found out my mom… My mom had breast cancer. She is a breast cancer survivor and I found out after I was working here at Roswell. I never knew before then,” Colon said.
In 2020, Maria Quinones went for her mammogram when doctors found a lump, and after a biopsy, they confirmed her diagnosis. That’s when Quinones made the difficult decision to surgically remove the cancer and her breasts.
Quinones spoke to News 4 via Colon, who was her translator.
“At first, I didn’t want to accept that I had cancer, but I had to make a decision and I had to do the surgery,” Quinones said.
After surgery and treatment, Quinones finally rang the bell earlier this year, marking that she is cancer-free. Both Quinones and Colon encourage Hispanic women to keep the conversation about breast cancer going to break the stigma and help more women.
“If they go back and talk to their mom, their sister, even their grandma and say ‘Have you had your mammogram?,’ that would be great because Hispanic families don’t usually do that. Now they’re trying to do that and I know they’re doing it, but it’s not in all the families yet,” Colon said.
“It’s very important to talk to your family and friends because it’s very important for you to get a mammogram so you can prevent any type of cancer,” Quinones said.
Soon, Esperanza y Vida will open a community center on Michigan Ave. in Buffalo where they hope to welcome people in and provide them with the care they need, el cuidado necesario.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.