From Waterbury to Argentina, Empowering Latinas to Take Charge of Their Health

Iglesias and Cappello


Quite by accident, they met in church.

One, a tenacious breast cancer survivor, determined never to let other women stay in the dark about their own health. The other a forthright Latina, all too familiar with outdated cultural norms that encourage women to put themselves second.

With grants from Connecticut Community Foundation, Nancy M. Cappello, Ph.D., founder and director of Are You Dense in Woodbury, and Yoellie Iglesias, director of Madre Latina in Waterbury, developed an education campaign aimed at Latinas, urging them to speak up, ask questions and assertively take charge of their own breast health.

They produced an educational video in English and Spanish that is now being viewed all over Greater Waterbury and by audiences as far away as Puerto Rico and Buenos Aires. Featuring breast cancer survivors and physicians, it empowers women, in Iglesias’s words, “to be aware, to ask questions and be smart” about their health.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for Latinas in the United States. And, compared to white women, Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage—when treatment is less effective.

Iglesias explains, “In our culture, asking questions sometimes means you are rude. They don’t teach Latinas to ask questions. Many Latinas put all their energies into children. They are always the last people on the list. So one of the things Madre Latina tells them is that if you love your children and your family, you need to be the first person on the list.”

Cappello founded Are You Dense, a nonprofit breast health organization, after her late stage cancer was diagnosed. She later learned that her dense breast tissue, which had reduced the reliability of regular mammograms, gave her a higher likelihood to have a missed, delayed and advanced stage breast cancer. She focused her energies on educating other women, and when her pastor asked her to speak in her church about breast health, Iglesias was there.

The Foundation’s grants gave Madre Latina and Are You Dense the tools to develop and publicize the video at workshops and medical offices and through community partners with websites, brochures, social media and national media in English and Spanish.

Said Iglesias, “We teach mothers, you have the key to your own life. If you ask for help, you can get it.”

View the video at

Photo of Yoellie Iglesias (L) and Nancy M. Cappello by Dorian Mode Photography

2017-05-31T11:38:40+00:00 May 18, 2017|2017, Grantees, Stories|