Cancer de Mama Clinic: Hope After the Pain
Tara A. Spears
Perfect temperatures under a perfect sunny sky set the mood for the annual La Penita Cancer de Mama Clinic for breast cancer survivors. In just the first two days, more than 344 women gathered to receive hugs and a new boob. A fleet of more than 100 international volunteers eagerly prepared the senior center to make this year’s clinic special.
The La Penita Cancer de Mama Clinic provides a vital service to those struggling to cope with breast cancer. For the last two years more than 520 Mexican women attended each clinic, traveling from across the state of Nayarit. What is shocking is that Nayarit has the distinction of having the highest incidence of female cancers in all Mexico. Just in the northern Nayarit municipality of San Pedro Lagunillas, which is a poor, mountainous agricultural area, the occurrence of female cancer is epidemic.
The Mexican government provides very little after-surgery care for the lower socioeconomic women without health insurance, which is approximately 60% of the Nayarit population. It is more difficult for a poor rural woman to return to a satisfying life due to the lack of available options or assistance – such as support groups, physical therapy or obtaining a prosthesis. Therefore, the service provided by the La Penita Cancer de Mama organization is a wonderful gift to these brave women as they rebuild their lives.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Mexico. According to the Mexican health agency, there has been only a slight decrease in death rates since 1995, indicating limited survival improvements in Mexico due to early detection screening and adjuvant therapy. In fact, the five-year breast cancer survival in Mexico during the 2000s was close to 60%, a much lower figure than that observed in developed countries.
Despite the existence of official recommendations for breast self-examination and mammography since the early 1990s, screening coverage has been very limited. Breast cancer cases continue to be detected by women themselves in 90% of instances and therefore they seek health care at an advanced stage. ” Medical treatment for the uninsured has only been in existence since 2004, when the Seguro Popular was approved by the Mexican legislature with the objective to ensure health care for all Mexicans who lack insurance coverage. Still, the small mountainous communities that are common in Nayarit are far from main medical centers.
A round of applause goes to Jackie Jackson who came up with the idea of providing prosthesis to Mexican women- who ever dreamed that from that first mini-clinic for 14 that the idea would take hold, being embraced by so many beautiful, beautiful women from three nations? It takes so much year round effort to obtain the required material; so many caring hands to organize, cook, set up, and so many brave women who come with hope to the clinic. It is not just about the bras and the boobs; it is about sharing hope from volunteer to participant, making friendships that that cause all of us to look forward to next year.