Breaking down barriers to cancer screenings, Comadre a Comadre

A group of 13 women pose to take a picture together in an auditorium with a sign behind them that says Early Detection = Better Outcomes.

Lisa McGovern, Executive Director of Congressional Families Program

When, how and whether to share one’s cancer diagnosis can be one of the most intimate decisions a person faces. On April 11 on Capitol Hill, the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Program honored one of the nation’s leading physician-geneticists Dr. Francis Collins, who announced his own prostate cancer diagnosis and shared it publicly in a Washington Post op-ed the next day to reach a national audience. Dr. Collins generously shared his experience to educate the public in hopes that more men will take steps to prevent cancer and detect it early when treatment outcomes are best.

In late March, I traveled to New Mexico to meet some exceptional women who also share their stories for the purpose of helping others. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (N.M.) welcomed Erica Childs Warner, Managing Director of Research, Education and Outreach for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, and me to her home state to shine a light on Comadre a Comadre, a 2023 Foundation community grantee.

Comadre a Comadre is a culturally and linguistically designed project that provides training to trusted peer breast and cervical cancer survivors (also known as comadres) in the community through Placitas—which translates to “talk” or “chat.” The comadres address barriers to screening and navigating patients to appointments. Their goal is to reach over 850 Hispanic/Latina individuals through health fairs, one-on-one conversations and group classes.

Our visit was held at the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNMCCC) where we received a warm welcome from Yolanda (Yoli) Sanchez, Ph.D., Director and CEO of the Center. Elba L. Saavedra Ferrer, Ph.D., Director of the Comadre a Comadre Program, introduced us to several of the peer educators—cancer survivors who are the heart of the program. We, along with Congresswoman Fernandez, a breast cancer survivor herself who was treated at UNMCCC, listened to the powerful stories of these women, some who are currently undergoing treatment, and heard about the obstacles they met and resources that helped the women face them.

It is hard to convey the feeling in that room. In addition to sharing information, these women shared so much of themselves—all in service to others. Despite being in a large auditorium, the comadres quickly created an intimate circle of trust. I can only imagine the impact this type of connection has on the many Latinas in New Mexico who they reach in such a deeply personal way.

Congressional Families uses its unique visibility to call attention to the Foundation’s community grantees across the U.S.; the 12 projects currently being funded are focused on best practices for community-level cancer prevention and early detection including strategies to address health-related disparities and utilize patient navigation. We hope that our visit and the attention it garnered will result in even more Latinas in New Mexico connecting with this amazing program!


To learn more about Comadre a Comadre and the rest of the Foundation’s community grantees, visit