Dealing with lung cancer is difficult, but an even more so for those who speak Spanish and can’t understand the information doctors give to them.
To address this, the Memorial Cancer Institute in South Florida is teaming up with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation to make its resources, which includes a guidebook for surviving lung cancer, available in Spanish. The book is called Navigating Lung Cancer 360 Degrees of Hope, and the foundation has a monthly live Web series, Lung Cancer Living Room — Bring Hope Home, in which medical experts answer questions in English with Spanish subtitles.
“In Miami-Dade County the majority of patients speak Spanish, and the majority of the information is in English,” said Dr. Luis Raez, hematologist-oncologist and medical director at Memorial Cancer Institute, who moved to South Florida from Peru 22 years ago.
According to the American Lung Association, Hispanics generally have lower rates of smoking than other racial and ethnic groups, with the exception of Asian Americans. In 2008, about 4.8 million (15.8 percent) Hispanics smoked compared with 21.3 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 22 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
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Despite this, the American Cancer Society in a 2012 report stated cancer was the leading cause of death among Hispanics. The report says poverty, reduced access to medical services, higher rates of uninsured Hispanics and lower cancer screenings among Latinos resulted in cancer being detected at a later stage, leading to higher mortality rates.
After Richard Ronay, 65, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at Memorial Regional Hospital in January, his wife, Francisca Ronay, 64, read the nonprofit’s book.
Born in Dominican Republic and a fluent English speaker, Francisca says she would have preferred the material in Spanish.
“The book was very informative,” she said. “But when it comes to my health, I would choose my language before anything.”
Dr. Ana Botero, a radiation oncologist at Memorial Cancer Institute, believes making the information more readily available to the Hispanic community will increase early detection of lung cancer.
“If you have a language barrier, you are not going to be reached by physicians, governmental organization or anything that we try to do,” said Botero, who was born in Colombia and moved to the United States about 20 years ago.
For the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, overcoming this communication hurdle is a big step toward managing the disease. Lung cancer is the most deadly of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Slightly more than one out of four cancer deaths stems from lung cancer. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
“Educated patients are empowered patients and empowered patients survive longer,” said Scott Santarella, president and CEO of ALCF.
“It can really be the difference of extending their life,” Santarella said.
To get a copy of Navigating Lung Cancer 360 Degrees of Hope in English or Spanish, email lungcancerfoundation.org. The handbook is free to lung cancer patients, their immediate family or caretaker.
The foundation also has a Navigating Lung Cancer 360 Degrees of Hope app on iOS and Android. For now, the app is only available in English.