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Cleveland mother and daughter join forces to encourage Hispanic women to focus on breast health

MetroHealth's BREAST/Amigas Unidas program provides mammograms, breast health education, and much more.

CLEVELAND — As we continue to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, we shift our focus on those who often put their own health last. 

A Hispanic woman living in the United States has a 1-in-10 chance of developing breast cancer. And while that's better than the national average, the Latino community also has obstacles to medical care and breast health education.  

MetroHealth's BREAST/Amigas Unidas program started as a grass roots effort. There is a need in Cleveland's hispanic communities for accurate information and access to care. Their mission is their name: "Bringing Education, Advocacy and Support Together, from friends." 

Camille Garcia manages the program with passion and unique perspective. Her mother, Carmen, is a breast cancer survivor. 

"In 2006 or so she became involved with the Amigas which is the volunteers and advocates through the grass roots efforts where they were educating women at churches," Garcia says. 

She asked her daughter for help. 

"I said, 'Sure I'll go volunteer at some community events for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.' I got to know the team and later on when I was looking for work or change for a different career, I always felt passionate about it and the doors opened," Garcia said. 

Camille is now the manager of the Community Health Outreach Cancer Center at Metro. Her mom is not the only inspiration for her work. She lost two aunts, her mother's sisters, to breast cancer.

"I'm considered high risk for developing breast cancer over my lifetime so my family is very aware of the screening guidelines we have to do for ourselves," Garcia said. 

The program not only provides mammograms and education, in sixteen years, they've diagnosed 70 women with breast cancer. The team is fluent in Spanish and also navigates women through the healthcare system and prepares them for what's next. They've reached 50,000 women and 60 percent of them have returned at least three times for continued screening. They also help those who lack insurance or are underinsured find help. 

"Teaching women that it's OK to take care of our health especially in the Hispanic community, women are always last in taking care of themselves," Garcia said. 

Camille and her team teach them to be vigilant. 

"We know the importance of advocating to other women like you need to get screened or at least know your family history," Garcia said. 

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