December 2017 Ask the Expert: Resources for Spanish-Speakers

December 1, 2017

Medical information can be hard to understand. Speaking a different language than your healthcare providers makes it even more difficult. 

As of 2013, 38.4 million U.S. residents over the age of 5 reported speaking Spanish at home. And the American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 10 U.S. Latinas will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. But finding resources about breast cancer that are culturally sensitive and in Spanish can be a challenge. Finding doctors who speak Spanish can seem even harder.

That’s why, iDecemberLiving Beyond Breast Cancer expert Evelyn Robles-Rodriguez, RN, MSN, APN, AOCNanswered your questions, in Spanish and in English, about getting breast cancer care and information in Spanish. She addressed how to find providers who speak Spanish, how to advocate for yourself or others whose preferred language is Spanish, what financial resources are available in the Spanish-speaking community, and more.

Are you newly diagnosed with breast cancer? Read about the basics of the disease and its treatments online here, or order copies of our Spanish-language guides by selecting the Foreign Language tab here.


Remember: we cannot provide diagnoses, medical consultations or specific treatment recommendations. This service is designed for educational and informational purposes only. The information is general in nature. For specific healthcare questions or concerns, consult your healthcare provider because treatment varies with individual circumstances. The content is not intended in any way to substitute for professional counseling or medical advice.

Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that?

A second opinion is a great way to feel assured that you are getting the right treatments and learn about possible other options available to you. It does not mean you have to change your medical team. If you are interested in a second opinion, ask your oncology team to refer you to someone. Most providers are very comfortable with this process and want you to feel confident with the care you are getting. If you do not want to ask your doctor, ask family or friends who have used other providers or call other cancer centers in your area. 

How do I find a doctor who speaks Spanish?

To find a doctor who speaks Spanish, you could call the cancer center where you will receive care and ask them if they have any Spanish-speaking providers. You can also ask your health insurance to help you find Spanish-speaking providers in your network. Finally, check with family and friends as well as your local community organizations as they may know of these providers in your area.

Are there any groups that specialize in giving financial help to Latinas?

There are no organizations that specifically specialize in financial help for Latinas with cancer but there are many organizations that will give financial aid to all patients with cancer. Your first step should be to speak with someone in your cancer center, like a social worker or nurse navigator, who may know of available opportunities for you. The Patient Advocate Foundation also has a great link with a variety of related resources including some specific ones for Spanish speakers.

What factors make me eligible for the genetic test that detects if I have the BRCA mutation?

Eligibility for genetic testing is based on many factors, including the age at which you were diagnosed, the type of cancer that you had, other factors of your cancer such as if it was triple negative, family history, and the type of insurance you have. To better learn if you are eligible, make an appointment with a genetic counselor who can review all these factors and decide with you whether or not genetic testing is appropriate for you and if it is covered by your insurance. Some laboratories also have resources to provide free or low-cost genetic testing for people with limited or no health insurance.

At what age should I begin to do mammograms if I have a family history of cancer?

The recommendation about the appropriate age at which to begin mammography is a subject of debate and varies by organization. What we do recommend is that each woman speaks with her doctor about the best age to start and stop mammography screening and how often to have it done. If you have a genetic mutation in the family or personally, that may also affect when to start mammograms. In general, it is recommended starting at age 40 or 10 years before the youngest person in the family was diagnosed with breast cancer. For example, if your mother had breast cancer at the age of 43, you should start getting mammograms at age 33.

What resources are available for Spanish speakers with breast cancer who also are facing depression, other mental health problems or other diseases?

Access to resources for mental health is sometimes difficult for Latinos in the United States. Some cancer centers have staff that specialize in giving support and mental care to cancer survivors and their support people. Also, there are agencies such as Nueva Vida that have resources in some eastern states. 

For care of other diseases, called comorbid conditions, talk to a primary care provider. Also, there are free or low-cost clinics in many communities for people with limited resources, as well as federally qualified health care centers. If you have insurance, talk to your insurance company, as they can help you find providers in your plan who speak Spanish.