Regular testing key to preventing cervical cancer

María Luisa Arredondo | 5/23/2012, 8:40 a.m.

According to Casillas, Latinas are the least likely group to get Pap tests. A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that 10 percent of Latinas don’t get Pap tests at all and 30 percent let more than three years go by without getting a Pap test. As a result, the women most likely to die of cervical cancer in California are Latinas between 50 and 79.

“That’s why it’s important,” Casillas adds, “to raise awareness among men about the need to encourage and support their wives to get Pap tests.”

Although men usually support their wives when they are diagnosed with cancer, there are unfortunately some cases when they abandon them, says Claudia Colindres, who supports cancer patients and their families through the nonprofit organization Latinas Contra Cancer (Latinas Against Cancer) in San Jose.

Rosario N., who preferred not to give her full name and works as a hotel cleaner in Irvine, says her husband left her five years ago, after her uterus was removed because she had cancer.

“He left me because I couldn’t give him kids. I found out he married a younger woman and they already have two kids. It hurt me a lot what he did to me, but at the same time I think he wasn’t a good man because he never supported me in anything,” says the worker, who is originally from Guatemala.

Zoraida Cruz experienced a similar situation. Her husband of more than 24 years abandoned her when she found out she had cancer. “He told me it was my problem and he went back to Nicaragua, where we’re both from. I spent a lot of very sad, dark nights feeling utterly alone. The only people who helped me were my friends, because I don’t have family here,” says Zoraida, who lost her job as a result of the disease.

In addition to her friends, Zoraida, who is 57 and studied biology in her native Nicaragua, says she has been able to move forward thanks to the help of Claudia Colindres and reading some metaphysics books that have increased her self-esteem.

“I consider myself a very strong woman and I know I’m going to make it through this. The most important thing I’ve learned is that we women need to love ourselves.”

Maria Luisa Arredondo is editor of Latino California.

Cervical cancer facts from www.thecmafoundation.org and www.cdc.gov.

Editor’s Note: Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer among women worldwide. Maria Luisa Arredondo, editor of Latino California and a 2011 CMAF/Cervical Cancer Reporting Fellow, reports that men could be the key to prevention and treatment.