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Not Much Care for Undocumented Women with Breast Cancer

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For many undocumented women in Arizona who have breast cancer, the fear of deportation and financial barriers delay or prevent treatment.

Yolanda Tufail, a registered nurse who works on chemotherapy infusion at the Maricopa Medical Center Oncology Clinic said, “When they come here it is often too late.” The clinic provides access to chemotherapy for breast cancer, doctor consultations and medicine at an affordable rate.

The Pew Hispanic Center said that about 6 in 10 latinos who are undocumented do not have health insurance. The American Cancer Society said that latina women are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of breast cancer and “have a higher mortality rate than white women.”

Mollie Williams, of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, said that undocumented women are likelier to forgo treatment because of the costs. “It is likely for these women to fall through the cracks,” said Williams.

Lucy Murrieta, an outreach community relations manager for the Sunset Community Health Center in Yuma County said, “We are able to screen them, but there’s not much we can do after that.” The center gives primary health services to over 6,000 agricultural workers and about 60 percent of them are women. The center doesn’t ask women’s immigration status, said Murrieta.

Murrieta said that in some cases the women have migrated legally, but if they have been in the country for less than five years they are ineligible for Medicaid coverage. When the women lose work after the farming season, they lose their health insurance, and this makes it difficult to get breast cancer treatment.

In Maricopa County, undocumented women who want to have surgery or need to receive chemotherapy treatment, can go to Healthcare Connect, a local nonprofit. Unfortunately the organization has only on surgeon who will perform mastectomies at a lower cost.

A focus group study in Phoenix, with 39 breast cancer survivors, found discrimination in access to care for undocumented breast cancer patients
Maureen Campesino, a professor of nursing and registered nurse who leads research at the Arizona State University’s College of Nursing found the results disturbing. She discovered that many of the women skipped treatment because they were afraid of losing their jobs, were denied services, and were fearful of asking for help because of deportation concerns.

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Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Anna - Thanks for bringing this to our attention. There is much work to be done to ensure appropriate treatment for our sisters and fellow human beings. I would just add that undocumented women in Arizona face discrimination and treatment issues for all forms of cancer, not just breast cancer. We can do better than this. Pat

March 25, 2010 - 6:42pm
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