Low Patient Turnout Posing Health and Financial Risks

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SAN JUAN – People trickled into the mobile clinic held by La Union Del Pueblo Entero in San Juan Wednesday afternoon. Sixty-two-year-old Miguel Lopez was among those in the crowd. Routine screenings are common practice for him, but that wasn't always the case. 

He developed a small bump behind his ear over a decade ago. The unwanted growth enlarged over time until a doctor's visit revealed it to be cancerous. Lopez continues battling the disease 12 years after his diagnosis. He said he should have visited a clinic sooner but couldn't invest the time or money. 

Dr. Michelle Cordoba Kissee said people in the Rio Grande Valley tend to avoid hospitals and clinics.  She said it's a "generational" issue, and the tendency is to only go to the doctor when you're sick, instead of practicing preventative medicine. 

Dr. Kissee told CHANNEL 5 NEWS, "Both financially and for the health of the patient, it's much more beneficial to come to the doctor when you're well to learn ahead of time: Do you have high blood pressure? Do you have diabetes? Can we screen you for cancer?"

She added, "Nowadays we have many things to intervene before we develop end-stage complications." 

"If one person is sick... if it's something infectious or communicable disease, you know, that one person can infect their family, their community, other people they work with, and other people they go to school with," Dr. Kissee added. 

Lopez said cancer-damaged facial nerves caused a stroke-like appearance on the left side of his face. He said failing to see a doctor at least once a year is a lesson learned he wants other to be mindful of.


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