Cancer knows no boundaries

In their 9th year of ACE’s Holiday Angels Fundraiser – Neil’s ACE Home Center donated $26,333.72 to the American Samoa Community Cancer Coalition, for cancer patients and their families. According to ACE, the fundraiser was highly successful as they had only sought $10K — they then match the amount — from customers as they donated to the company’s annual Angels program.

We are seeing more cancers in young people — the Big “C” has no boundaries, said the American Samoa Community Cancer Coalition. “Our message to our community is – don’t wait, don’t ignore – if you know something is not right please go to the hospital and ask for screening to find out what is wrong. And act on the doctor’s recommendations right away.” 

The Cancer Coalition’s Tautai Lavea’i program is here to support cancer patients with information, a stipend, and help to access care, the ASCCC noted. “The average age of our stipend recipient is a young 53 years. And more than half of them are diagnosed with ‘metastatic’ disease, or cancer that has spread beyond the original tumor and is then harder to treat.”

Pictured is the Neil’s ACE Home Center presentation of the $26K plus check to ASCCC, yesterday, which included not only the coalition and ACE representatives, but also two recipients of the stipends.

They are Darlene Tauaese (short blonde hair, 4th from the right), who is a breast cancer patient going back to Seattle for follow up soon; and Juliette AhChing (far right), who is the sister of 17-year-old Peter Ah Ching of Vaitogi, who was recently diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. Peter is putting up a brave fight at the Kapi’olani Womens & Childrens hospital in Honolulu, with the support of his mother, Julie.

The American Samoa Community Cancer Coalition’s sole purpose is to ‘Help the People of American Samoa Fight Cancer’. Led by an energetic Board of Directors representing various sectors in our community, the Cancer Coalition aims to achieve its mission by implementing the following strategic actions:

1 – Conducting community based research into health, and specifically cancer, issues

2 – Advocating for more effective health policies and legislation

3 – Providing cancer patient navigation

4 – Fundraising for and coordinating cancer patient stipends

Why is our mission so important?

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 1,688,780 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. This equates to 442.7 people out of every 100,000 men and women.  Of these, 601,000 will die from cancer.

Approximately 42.05% or one in two men, and 37.58% or one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in American Samoa. The rate of cancer is possibly higher, but because the majority of diagnosis are done off-island, most cancer cases are NOT reported in our local health data.

The probability of developing cancer as an American Samoa resident is high because we have the highest rates of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific, and second highest in the world for some categories, namely obesity and diabetes. Co-morbidity is the state of having two chronic diseases at the same time. The rate of co-morbidity in American Samoa i.e. obesity and diabetes, obesity and hypertension or all three, is very high. The result of having these diseases raises the risk of one developing cancer as well because these diseases weaken your overall health and increase the risk of irregular cell mutation, which is the cause of cancer.

The median age of a cancer patient at diagnosis in the United States is 66.  In American Samoa, using the limited data collected by the Cancer Coalition, the median age is 53.

There are no ‘majority’ types of cancers diagnosed in the territory.  They range from rare leukemias to breast cancer. We have seen a rise in the number of cancers diagnosed in children, and in adults ages 40-50.   This trend parallels the sharp increase in obese children, and adults diagnosed with chronic disease at earlier ages such as gout, hypertension, and kidney disease.

Based on data from 2007-2013, approximately 67% of cancer patients will survive 5 years after diagnosis.  In 2014 there were an estimated 14,738,719 people living with cancer in the United States.  There is no current data on cancer survivorship in American Samoa because of the lack of patient follow-up once they go off-island to confirm their diagnosis and undergo treatment.

This article is an opening statement, a prelude to a monthly health column that the Cancer Coalition will be providing to our community as a service in the hopes that our people will be empowered to make informed decisions guided by fact rather than ‘gut’ or hearsay.  All statistics herein are provided by the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society (2017).

Over the next 12 months we will provide information on cancer screening and other ways of preventing cancer, as well as information on what to do when diagnosed. 

[photo: TG]

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