New Chicago breast cancer clinic seeks to make medicine more accessible to Spanish speakers

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
New Chicago breast cancer clinic has Spanish-speaking staff
A new Northwestern Hispanic Breast Cancer Clinic wants to make medicine more accessible to Spanish speakers.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new Northwestern breast cancer clinic is bridging the gap between the medical system and the Hispanic community.

The clinic is helping the Hispanic community feel more comfortable when walking through its doors.

When a patient shows up for an appointment, all the providers, from the doctors, to nurses, to the social workers, will be speaking in Spanish, as a way to combat a possible language barrier.

"I was training to qualify for Boston. And that year, my training was very, very strict. And I lost tons of weight; I lost about 20 pounds of weight," said Erika Aleman, a breast cancer survivor.

Aleman said she didn't qualify that year, but it was the training that saved her life.

She said when she felt something was off, she went to the doctor and found out she had breast cancer.

"My mom, my grandma, I remember seeing them sick, but they still went to work. So I grew up with that idea," Aleman said.

She said culturally the Hispanic community avoids going to the doctor, mostly because of language barriers. Data from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation show Hispanic women in the U.S. are about 30% more likely to die from their breast cancer than white women.

It's a big part of why Northwestern's new Hispanic breast clinic opened in early September.

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"We would see less than 10% of Hispanic patients, and the volume of patients that we're seeing here at the Cancer Center, realized that that number should be a lot higher," said Dr. Claudia Tellez, clinic medical director.

As a Spanish-speaker herself, Tellez said she wanted to create an environment where Hispanic women felt good walking through the door.

"These women to a large extent are women who are trying to survive and take care of their families, so that doing a mammogram is also almost a luxury for them, rather than something that it's done to really take care of themselves," Tellez said.

The entire team speaks Spanish, and regardless of insurance or documentation status, the clinic said all are welcome.

"It was like being at home," Aleman said.

Aleman is now breast cancer free and back on her mission of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

"Like if I survive cancer, I can do anything," she said.

The clinic is located at Prentice Women's Hospital, 250 E. Superior St., 4th Floor, in Chicago.