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The 'Promotora Effect': Getting Latinas To Mammograms

We all know that cancer screenings are important, but it doesn’t mean they always get done. For some Latina women, a conversation with a peer can nudge them to action.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latina women. Dr. Gloria Coronado, epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Oregon, said that’s because Latinas are likely to be diagnosed when the disease is already advanced.

“Women who are with advanced stage breast cancer have a much lower rate of survival,” Coronado said.

Coronado had an idea. What if women got a visit from someone like them? A "promotora"?

Promotoras are lay people trained as community health workers. Their role isn’t to tell patients what to do, but to provide information about breast cancer.

Would that improve the rate of breast cancer screenings? “It’s known to be effective in Latin American countries and in Mexico,” Coronado said.

Dr. Ricardo Jimenez, medical director of Sea Mar Community Health Centers, co-authored a study focused on women who were overdue for a mammogram. Those who got visits from a promotora were nearly twice as likely to get follow up screening.

“In that conversation, the role is to identify potential barriers,” he said.

Jimenez is encouraged by the results of the study, so much so that he’s trying to find a way to incorporate promotoras as part of the clinic’s program.

The findings are published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Year started with KUOW: 1994