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Columbus Hosts Latino Cancer Summit

The first Latino cancer summit was held Thursday in Columbus. Attendees heard from the former president of the American Cancer Society who called for a shift in the cancer treatment paradigm.

Carlos Mueller came to Columbus from Venezuela 11 years ago. Last December he went to the doctor at the urging of friends.

"Well I had a lot of pain in my shoulder," Mueller said. "I thought it was stress from my job or something like that. But it continued two months. So I go to the doctor and the doctor say, 'Carlos, there is a mass or something.' They made the radiology for me. He looked at something in my lung and he say, 'Carlos, you have something in the lung.' When they made another exam, more specific, they say, 'You have lung cancer.'"

Mueller has gone through radiation and chemotherapy. He says the size of the tumor has shrunk considerably and that a doctor will remove it. Mueller has health insurance but it hasn't covered the entire cost of treatment which stands so far at $140,000 he says.

Under the current U.S. health care system being insured means you're less likely to succumb to cancer. Elmer Huerta the immediate past president of the America Cancer Society spoke to the Latino Cancer Summit

"If you have health insurance, you are much [more] likely to survive cancer than people without health insurance," Huerta said. "So the fact that you have access to care increases your chances of surviving cancer."

But 38 percent of Hispanic/Latino Americans don't have health insurance. And they're often isolated from the U.S. health care system by other barriers. There are linguistic isolation, Huerta says, and poverty. There's also a lack of ethnically sensitive health care programs in the U.S. that would educate the Hispanic/Latino community. "If you do not have health insurance and because cancer is a silent condition, then you will postpone your visit to the doctor you will wait for the tumor to grow and it is only when the tumor is big or is hurting you that you see the doctor and then you become part of the statistic," says Huerta.

That's why Huerta wants to see preventive screening become a regular part of the health care system. He currently directs the Cancer Preventorium in Washington D.C. The low income clinic only accepts people without symptoms.