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A Guide Through the Maze

Annual Report - Winter 2010

By Mary Brolley

Cancer screening tests do no good if people don’t get them.

That’s the thinking behind FAROS , a study of an intervention that encourages adult Hispanics enrolled in the Medicare program to learn more about cancer prevention and screening. While all participants receive educational materials, some also are assigned a Spanish-speaking guide to help them navigate the maze of making and following through with appointments.

José Regalado (center) learns about the FAROS study from
Lovell Jones, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on
Minority Health, and Maria Berglund, CRMH coordinator.

“This study will allow us to determine the effectiveness of using a ‘navigator’ for people who are unfamiliar with health care services and processes,” says Lovell Jones, Ph.D., director of M. D. Anderson’s Center for Research on Minority Health and FAROS lead investigator. “Previous studies have indicated that providing guided assistance can diminish fears and facilitate a smoother experience.”

FAROS , which means “beacon” in Spanish and stands for Facilitated Assistance, Research and Outreach Services, is a national initiative to meet Hispanic patients halfway with health information and take away the barriers to their being tested. It’s a collaborative effort between M. D. Anderson and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority population in the United States and Texas,” Jones says. “Because many face financial and accessibility obstacles to getting health care and the screening tests they need, this program hopes to provide real guidance.”

More than 1,700 are enrolled in the study. They must be Hispanic or Latino residents of Harris County, Texas, or a surrounding county, enrolled in Medicare A and B, and at least 40 years old.

Lucio Romero, one of the patient navigators, notes that potential participants are often concerned about the confidentiality of their health information and test results. “They are sometimes wary,” he says. But once he earns their trust, the rewards are great — and may last for generations. “The younger generations see their elders getting the screenings, and it may inspire them.”

Romero and other FAROS staff members often are recognized when they are out in the community, he says. “They’ll say, ‘Here’s the man who helped me.’ It’s very rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center