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Latinos: Get a colonoscopy, it could save your life

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Having a colonoscopy might be pretty low on Latino adults’ to-do lists. Even hearing the term “colonoscopy” might make some people a bit squeamish.

But it can also save your life.

Just take it from Armida Flores, a promotora—a trained community health worker—at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Flores spends her days helping Latinos confront cancers and illness.

She knows first-hand that Latinos don’t get colon cancer screening enough. In fact, a new study found that only 28 percent of U.S. Latinos have had colon cancer screening, compared to 36 percent of African-Americans and 44 percent of whites.

Because of these things, she began to worry about her own health and decided to schedule a colonoscopy, which can help identify colon cancer.

“I was a little bit nervous about it but, to my surprise, the procedure was not too bad,” Flores said. “I was asleep, so I did not feel any pain or discomfort.”

After explaining the procedure using simple medical terms, the doctor even offered to pray with her, an extra comfort that Flores welcomed.

“The procedure was fast and the staff was caring.”

The night before the procedure, Flores had trouble sleeping because of the liquid laxative solution she had to drink. However, she was surprised to discover that the liquid laxative, usually known for its horrible taste, actually wasn’t bad. “The taste was okay, it was kind of salty and sweet,” she recalled.

The doctor found two small polyps in Flores’ colon that he was able to remove easily.

Flores eliminated potential dangers to her health just by deciding to take action.

She urges Latinos not to put themselves at risk just because of fear.

“I think people are scared because of the word or because they heard something negative about it,” Flores said. “But a colonoscopy could save their life.”

Learn more about colonoscopies in Spanish or English.

Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez

Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, directs the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, which researches Latino health issues and founded the SaludToday Latino health blog, Twitter and Facebook. Dr. Ramirez, an internationally recognized cancer health disparities researcher, has spent 30 years directing research on human and organizational communication to reduce chronic disease and cancer health disparities affecting Latinos, including cancer risk factors, clinical trial recruitment, tobacco prevention, obesity prevention, healthy lifestyles, and more. She also trains/mentors Latinos in behavioral sciences and is on the board of directors for LIVESTRONG, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and others. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies in 2007.

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