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Cancercare social worker reaches out to minority population

By Leslie Lake, Wilton Villager

731 days ago   Article ID# 1554907
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NORWALK, CONNECTICUT (Wilton Villager) - In her capacity as program director of Latino Outreach for CancerCare of Connecticut, Cristina Lima, MSW, sees firsthand the faces behind the sobering cancer statistics among the Latino population as reported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

NCI reports Hispanic women have the highest rate of cervical cancer among all groups, except for the Vietnamese, and twice the incidence rates of non-Hispanic white women. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanics.

"There are a lot of reasons for this. In many cases there is a language barrier, there's an economic aspect and people don't know where to go for screening or treatment," said Lima. "There is a population of undocumented people who don't go because of that."

The American Cancer Society has designated the third week in April as "National Minority Cancer Awareness Week," which is based on an 1987 Joint Resolution of the U.S. House of Representatives. Explained in the Congressional Record, the resolution drew attention to "an unfortunate, but extremely important fact about cancer. While cancer affects men and women of every age, race, ethnic background, and economic class, the disease has a disproportionately severe impact on minorities and the economically disadvantaged."

"Cristina provides community outreach and education, makes accessible all of CancerCare's services in Spanish, and conducts a support group in Spanish. She has established relationships with a network of providers to insure that those in need of our services would be made aware of their availability," said Sandra Tripodi, Regional Director of the Connecticut office of CancerCare.

CancerCare of Connecticut provided services to 2,400 Connecticut residents in 2011. Services included professional counseling and support services at no cost to cancer patients and their families.

"Cristina has headed programs targeting outreach to the Latino community as well as other underserved populations since she came to CancerCare in 2008," said Tripodi. "She was recently recognized by the National Association of Social Worker's Connecticut's Latino Social Workers Network for her contributions as a medical social worker and as a mentor and role model to Latino and Latina social workers."

According to the American Cancer Society website, "Disparities in the cancer burden among racial and ethnic minorities largely reflect obstacles to receiving health care services related to cancer prevention, early detection and high-quality treatment with poverty as the overriding factor.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 25 percent of African Americans and 23 percent of Hispanics lived below the poverty line in 2008, compared with 9 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Moreover, 31 percent of Hispanics were uninsured, 19 percent of African Americans were uninsured, while only 11 percent of non-Hispanic whites lacked health insurance."

Lima has provided community outreach and education since 2008, makes accessible all of CancerCare's services in Spanish, and conducts a support group in Spanish. She has established relationships with a network of providers to insure that those in need of its services would be made aware of their availability. All of CancerCare services are free of charge, including financial assistance for treatment-related expenses.

"My goal is for people to be able to be screened for cancer in the minority population," said Lima. "I had a client who knew that something was wrong and she was afraid to go to the doctor. She waited two years to go to the doctor and he gave her the news that she didn't want to hear. She was able to be treated, but it was a much more difficult treatment because she waited."

CancerCare of Connecticut is the local arm of the national Cancercare organization and provides the following services at no cost to cancer patients and their families: Online, telephone and face-to-face counseling; support groups; financial assistance to eligible individuals for treatment-related costs such as transportation, and insurance co-payments; and educational workshops.

"We worked harder as an organization to reach out to people who need us most," said Tripodi. "We have so much more to do. Our goal is to raise awareness in the community at large about disparity and gaps in cancer health and to point out the differences in equity to access appopriate screening and treatment," said Tripodi.

Copyright 2014 Wilton Villager   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 731 days ago   Article ID# 1554907

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