Jose Mendoza Silveiras, MD, PhD was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2008. He's young, fit and highly educated. He knew he had a family history of colorectal cancer, but didn't think that was something he needed to worry about until he was older. Well, he wants you to learn from his near fatal mistake. He's rolled up his sleeves and is ready for action. He first joined the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) community as a Buddy, a CCA peer to peer survivor and caregiver program. His volunteer role has evolved and he now advices the Colon Cancer Alliance as its first Latino Medical Consultant. He received his Medical Doctor Degree from Venezuelan Central University, Caracas-Venezuela. His experience includes being the Clinical Trial Center Director at the Naval Medical Research Center and as the Medical Director and Entrepreneur of Sanar Espacio Terapeutico for cancer and HIV patients, in Venezuela.
Jose recently sat down with Jasmine Greenamyer, Vice President of the Colon Cancer Alliance, to discuss why he's passionate about the CCA, colon cancer and creating a call to action in the Latino community.
Why are you a volunteer with the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA)?
I believe that the CCA's mission is very important to all communities, including the Latino community. I love the tagline, "Inform. Prevent. Support." The CCA is great for people who are newly diagnosed or who have been touched by colon cancer. But, if we want to create change, we need more people to be passionate about preventing this cancer. There are only a few cancers that you have the power to prevent, and this is one of them. Go get a screening test. I want to encourage more people to get involved with this cause before they are diagnosed with colon cancer.
How can the CCA be impactful in the Latino community?
We have our work cut out for us in the Latino community. This is such a quiet cancer. There are a lot of taboos about the body, about health -- it's going to be hard. You can't do a self check for this. You have to go to a doctor; you have to navigate the medical system. We need to make the case for being proactive -- it will make it easier for you in the long run. Do something before you have to think about the treatment costs. I think we should do our outreach to the mothers as they are the "bosses of the house." We want you to be informed so you can help your family. The fathers are usually the providers and don't like to ask doctors questions. Let's motivate our families to get screened.
What else would you like to tell the CCA community about yourself?
I am passionate about health, which means I don't just think about one type of cancer. For example, did you know that according to a study published in 2008 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, anal cancer is almost 60 times more common in HIV-positive individuals compared with the general population. They stated that rates are expected to increase as HIV-infected persons live longer.
I may have colon cancer, but our health isn't just one body part. We know heart disease and diabetes is an epidemic. We know to be concerned about our cholesterol or that we shouldn't smoke. But, how often do we think about how this is all interrelated? Or, that medication we may be taking for one thing may affect different parts of our body? We need to think about our health more comprehensively. Eat a balanced diet, get exercise, don't smoke, drink moderately or not at all, and get your preventative screening tests. Tell your doctor you want your colon checked.