At the Forefront of Hispanics and Cancer - Cancer Treatment Centers of America®


Story By: Chriss Swaney


Cancer in the Hispanic community is rising at an alarming rate. U.S. Census Bureau data estimates that it accounts for 22 percent of deaths in the US Hispanic Population, making the incidence of Cancer the leading cause of death and an issue in dire need of attention.


In order to increase awareness of early detection and the latest in treatments, Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) has created the Hispanic Advisory Council (HAC). This group of influential business and medical leaders is tasked with engaging and educating Hispanic cancer patients, caregivers and their families by sharing insights, experiences and resources.

Council members represent a diverse repertoire of highly respected organizations and influential leaders from industries that include business, health care, philanthropy and community advocacy,’’ said Rev. Luis Cortés, the HAC’s first chairman and president and CEO of Esperanza, an organization dedicated to empowering Hispanic communities through education, economic development and advocacy.

As part of its national outreach efforts, the HAC has held thought leader forums in major cities across the country in order to share what cancer is, how to prevent it and treatment options available. The forums, better known as Por Vida events, create conversations about local community educational and awareness efforts in the fight against cancer.


HAC meetings feature clinicians who discuss inroads in cancer research and prevention. Perhaps the most poignant part of the HAC meetings, though, is the exchange between Latino CTCA® patients and Council members. These stories are filled with anecdotes that tout the excellent care provided by CTCA care teams, from nurses and physicians to nutritionists and pain specialists.

“It has been a learning experience. We have found a community that is far behind in both knowledge and access to quality health care,’’ said Cortés. “Our hope is to close that gap as quickly and efficiently as possible and to increase cancer prevention and treatment awareness among Hispanic families.” Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), said she has been impressed with Latino patients’ positive feedback about the supportive experience for patients and their families at CTCA, as well as the cultural understanding by CTCA physicians and staff.

Through her role, Rios brings influential CTCA speakers to NHMA’s annual conference with the goal of engaging in dialogue about how to continue to educate and empower Latino physicians and their patients.

Other HAC members remain active and are taking several approaches to reach various Hispanic communities.

Javier Palomarez, president of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), said the HAC is focused on using data and information to shed light on the cultural norms, nuances and behavioral changes in the Hispanic population.

“It’s about helping the community better cope with the complexities of cancer,” said Palomarez, who was extremely impressed when CTCA had its patients attend the HAC meetings.

“When you consider that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, you realize the true magnitude of the problem. I commend CTCA for its willingness to convene this Council. The leadership of the council is truly life-changing.

HAC member Gisela Girard, president of Creative Civilization, a San Antonio/Austin based marketing communications firm, remarks on the extraordinary experiences the HAC has provided her with. She has been especially touched by meeting numerous Hispanic cancer survivors and their caregivers.


“All of us are affected by cancer—my mother, my husband’s mother, my cousin and friends. Whether it is directly or someone we know and love, we must address this disease beginning with prevention, early detection and treatment options,” said Girard. “I am proud to be part of the HAC because we are embarking on initiatives with a commitment to help our Hispanic community and save lives.’’

Girard also notes that one of the main goals behind the HAC is to stimulate a dialogue about cancer.

“As we see the statistics on cancer diagnoses among Hispanics rise, the goal of the Council is to bring the conversation about cancer to our families and our communities,’’ according to Girard.

“The most significant impact we can make is to talk about it, encourage each other to take preventative measures and modify our lifestyle with healthy eating, physical activity and taking charge of our health,’’ Girard said.

Because the Hispanic community is especially vulnerable to cancer and has lower levels of knowledge about options, diagnostics and insurance coverage options, Jorge Ferraez, founder and publisher of Latino Leaders Magazine, is adamant about further developing awareness.

“You have some of the most talented, well connected and committed people from the Hispanic community serving as Council members,’’ Ferraez said. “We must inspire influential individuals to spread the message to their communities.”

HAC members are passionate and strongly committed when it comes to getting the word out about cancer awareness and the ongoing work at CTCA, where quality cancer care is provided through a national network of five leading hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. In April 2015, CTCA also opened its first referral clinic in Mexico City. In addition, CTCA created the Mexican Physician Network, a group of leading oncologists that helps patients navigate their medical system and assists with necessary documentation for referring patients to the United States.


To learn more about HAC events, follow the conversation on Twitter via #CTCAPorVida.