At LULAC's 85th Convention in New York this week one of the discussions underway was how to create awareness about high cancer rates in the Latino community, and how to share information about right diet considerations, and to promote early detection.

A recent partner of LULAC is the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. CTCA Chief Operating Officer Elena Roman, who spoke at the Women's Luncheon on Friday, told Latin Post that they figured out late the importance of ensuring Latino communities in the United States, in Mexico and Latin America are aware of cancer.  

Roman said CTCA started multicultural programs at hospitals but then discovered they needed to reach people in the communities where they lived and two years ago started looking at partnerships in different cities. LULAC was at the top of the list of partner organizations because of their long history of dedication to education.

"We have to accelerate education within our communities because cancer is the number one cause of death with Latinos, and it shouldn't be that way," Elena Roman told Latin Post. "What we were seeing is people turning up late for treatment, not turning up at all or not staying for treatment."

Roman said there are several reasons for Latinos not seeking help early -- fear, lack of information, lack of access to affordable healthcare, poor diet and not taking care of themselves.  

Roman said a work colleague had asked her why there were so few Latino names on the Hope tree in the lobby of one of the cancer treatment hospitals. The names of survivors are tied to the tree who survived cancer five years later, 10 years and 15 years later. Her colleague asked her, "Are we not living?" 

The American Cancer Society reported in its Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2012-2014, 17,000 males and 15,000 females Latinos will die of cancer in 2012.

Roman said 75-80 percent of people who are coming to the Centers are coming for second opinions, but among the Latino community it is not prevalent, and people wait longer. At a talk in Houston, Texas, Roman said the majority of the people in the room were Latinos and about 30 were men and she asked them how many of them had an colonoscopy? The average age in the room was 45 to 50. One man had the courage to put his hand up. Roman told the men to look at the man next them ands she told them, "One of you will not be alive because of cancer."

Roman said Latinas lead the country for cervical cancer at 67 percent over other females.

"Women are usually the caregivers but Latinas lead at 51 percent as caregivers in their families, and it is usually a full time job," she said. "When they are caregivers and taking care of everybody else we often forget to take care of themselves."

She recommends families get involved when seeking advice about a symptom, accompany family members on visits to the doctors, go with a list of questions and she said the survival rate is greater when there is family involved and around and asking questions.

CTCA recently become a partner with the National Cancer Institute in Mexico and has begun outreach in Guadalajara and Monterey in Mexico City.  

"[Every day,] 228 Mexican nationals die of cancer," Roman said. "When you think about that our Latin roots in America, a large part of that comes from Mexico and Latin America. We believe we have to be global in our approach because it is not limited to the United States because many of our families are still on foreign land, and we have to educate on both sides of the fence." 

CTCA has five hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Tulsa.