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Finding Strength at Home

De Casa en Casa helps patients in their fight against cervical cancer


In 2023, El Pasoan Martha Hilda Garcia Hernandez found herself facing the daunting diagnosis of cervical cancer.


Faced with both physical and emotional challenges, Martha discovered a newfound strength within herself thanks to the support of her community and the assistance of Texas Tech Health El Paso’s De Casa en Casa program.


"The biggest obstacle I’ve had was my first chemotherapy," Martha recalled, reflecting on the grueling six-hour session that left her drained and questioning her ability to endure. "I felt awful. I thought I wasn’t going to be strong enough."


In the midst of her struggles, Martha found solace in the compassionate guidance provided by De Casa en Casa. She was assigned a dedicated patient navigator named Marisela Cottrell, who provided assistance that extended far beyond medical treatment.


El Pasoan Martha Hilda Garcia Hernandez

"Marisela would even go to my house and talk to me and my family," Martha said "She drove me to appointments, taught me about the disease and offered moral support."


Through the program, Martha learned to navigate her fears and embrace her diagnosis with courage and acceptance.


"With De Casa en Casa’s help, I was able to accept it," Martha said. "Before, I couldn't even say that word: 'cancer.' Now, I can accept it."


De Casa en Casa cancer prevention program at Texas Tech Health El Paso.

In observance of National Cancer Prevention Month, Texas Tech Health El Paso celebrates its cancer prevention programs, which have served our community and others throughout West Texas for over 10 years. The De Casa en Casa program provides patient outreach, health education, no-cost clinical services, and patient navigation, primarily promoting Pap test completion and timely diagnostic testing.


The program was launched in 2014 with the initial mission of serving two counties. Over the years, it has undergone significant growth and now operates 16 screening delivery sites within 61 counties in West and South Texas.


De Casa En Casa

To date, De Casa en Casa has provided patient care and navigation services to more than 33,000 women. Among them, over 7,200 have successfully completed screenings, while over 550 women have undergone advanced diagnostic tests and treatments to avert the development of abnormal lesions into cancer. Notably, more than 1,300 the women screened had never previously received such screenings.


In 2023, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced a $2,499,437 grant to enhance preventive cervical cancer care in our Borderplex region.


The CPRIT grant supports the expansion of the De Casa en Casa program, extending its reach and capacity to reduce cervical cancer rates and mortality in the targeted areas. The grant will allow De Casa en Casa to provide 4,000 cervical cancer screenings over the next five years, said Jennifer Molokwu, M.D., M.P.H., director of Cancer Prevention and Control in the Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine.


The grant will enable De Casa en Casa to address these disparities by regularly promoting cervical cancer screening in our region, especially among Latinas, who experience the highest incidence of cervical cancer in Texas.


 

Cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates

  • Average incidence rate in De Casa en Casa service area: 12.6 per 100,000 compared to national rate of 7.7 per 100,000

  • Approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually in the United States.

  • Around 60% of cervical cancer cases occur in resource-poor communities.

  • In El Paso, there are 10.8 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women.


 

Martha Hilda Garcia Hernandez is a cancer warrior.

As Martha embarked on her treatment, her determination only grew stronger.


"Cancer has actually changed my life in a positive way," she said, explaining she has a newfound appreciation for her well-being. "I value my health, and I’m taking care of myself more."


Amidst the challenges, Martha found strength in her sons, who’ve become her pillars of support. Their love and encouragement fueled her resolve to fight.


"Life can take away everything from me, except my kids," Martha said. "They are my reason. That’s why I’m going to keep pushing."


Despite the physical toll of her treatment, Martha is determined to overcome cancer.


"Even with this disease, I feel good," she said. "I’m here, and I can overcome this."


 

Over the past decade, Texas Tech Health El Paso has saved lives through its cancer prevention programs. CLICK HERE to learn more about the De Casa En Casa program.

 

YOU CAN HELP

Help transform health care in our community and beyond by making a gift to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. CLICK HERE to learn how to give.

At TTUHSC El Paso, we are committed to growing our own health care heroes and changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how you can help, please contact andrea.tawney@ttuhsc.edu or craig.holden@ttuhsc.edu or visit ttuhscep.edu/elpaso/ia/giving/.


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