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Pediatric cancer on the rise

Pictured are child cancer survivor Eliana Feliciano and Zsofe Renette Del Mundo, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. According to local stats, Pediatric Cancer is on the rise in American Samoa.   [Courtesy photos]

Pago Pago, American Samoa — Pediatric cancer — cancers found in children between the ages of 0 to 19 years old — is on the rise in American Samoa.

The Cancer Coalition has experienced an increase in the number of stipend applications submitted on behalf of children with cancer. During the last five years, eight children between the ages of one and seventeen received stipends or were introduced to the Coalition by way of fundraising events. We know of another four who did not receive stipends but whose cancers were confirmed.

This represents a rate of 46 cases per 100,000 children age 0-19 — double the U.S. national average (2010 Census). These are just the children we know of. There are many who go off-island for diagnosis and treatment who are excluded from local data.

In the United States, about 12,400 cases are diagnosed in children under the age of 20 annually according to the National Cancer Institute. The chance of a child being diagnosed before age 19 is roughly 1 in 300. Cancer is the second leading cause of death amongst children age 0 to 14 in the U.S.; despite that statistic more children in the U.S. survive cancer compared to the worldwide average. 

The most common pediatric cancers documented by the Coalition are leukemia and lymphomas. These are the most common nationwide as well. 

While most adult cancers develop in response to lifestyle factors (smoking, obesity, other chronic diseases), pediatric cancers rarely result from such causes.

According to the American Cancer Society, a small percentage of child cancers stem from an inherited genetic issue, or exposure to cancer causing material (carcinogens). Between 5-15% of these cancers are traced back to genetic factors.

But for the most part, up to 90% of pediatric cancers remain a mystery, so there is little parents can do to ‘prevent’ their children from developing cancer in terms of screening or vaccination.

The National Cancer Institutes simply remind parents to provide their families with healthy foods, clean water, a clean environment and updated vaccinations.

Additionally, when children bruise easily, experience constant nosebleeds, and pain – don’t wait. Take your child to the doctor. It may be absolutely nothing, but the point is — it’s better to be safe!


Eliana Feliciano is the daughter of local residents, Edgar and Silia Feliciano. Eliana was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma on December 23, 2015, and given a 20% chance of recovery. 

Her mother writes, “We, as parents, were given the task of choosing whether we wanted to have her start a very aggressive regiment of Chemotherapy or have her just not have to go through it.  To us the decision seemed absurd, as we obviously wanted to give our child every fighting chance that she could get, and decided to start chemo right away.”

Eliana started chemotherapy on Christmas Eve, 2015.  According to Silia, “Cancer is something we had always heard of happening, but it had never hit this close to home. Watching Eliana having to go through it was the hardest thing we ever had to go through.  And the uncertainty of it all, made it all the worse, however despite it all we kept believing that she would make it through this.”

Initially, she refused to eat any food and the doctors put her on a feeding tube, but after a few months, one day out of nowhere Eliana simply said, "I think I am ready to eat now, and from that point on, she started eating on her own, and has never looked back.”

In October 2016, Eliana received the long awaited confirmation that she is cancer free. Silia says, “Now Eliana continues to live as if she never went through it at all, she is cheerful; rather than us inspiring her as parents, she has inspired us instead.”


We hope that Eliana’s success story will provide hope to our most recent child stipend recipient and her brave parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Del Mundo whose one-year old daughter, Zsofe Renette Catignas Del Mundo was given a pre-diagnosis just three weeks ago at LBJ.

She was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) in California where her Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was confirmed, and she began ‘intensive chemotherapy treatment’ beginning January 21.  Thanks to the office of Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen, her parents were able to expedite their Visas to join their daughter within a week.