By TEDDYE SNELL
Although the month of October spotlights breast cancer awareness, the Cherokee Nation offers cancer programs and prevention initiatives year-round.
The Cherokee Nation provides cancer screenings and support groups and maintains a cancer registry of Native Americans diagnosed within the tribe’s 14 counties for research and prevention.
National statistics show that mortality rates for cancer is higher among Native Americans than other races, and incidence rates are increasing.
“The Cherokee Nation strives to promote cancer prevention, early detection, outreach and education for our citizens,” said Sohail Khan, director of health research at the Cherokee Nation. “Some forms of cancer are preventable by eliminating the risk factors, and most forms of cancer are treatable. Early detection and treatment vastly improves a patient’s chances of cure and survival and, in turn, better quality of life.”
Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital performs mammograms, colonoscopy and hemoccult testing for colon cancer, as well as screenings for cervical and prostate cancer. The tribe’s eight health centers also offer the services or refer patients to Hastings for screenings.
Hastings contracts with the Warren Clinic Oncology, which has offices in Tahlequah and Tulsa, or The Tulsa Cancer Institute for diagnosed patient services.
The Cherokee Nation is the first federally recognized tribe to receive national funding to maintain a cancer registry. The Cherokee Nation Cancer Registry is funded by the National Cancer Institute, and the data collected is shared each year with the national institute as part of its Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program.
The registry, in place since 1997, monitors and analyzes overall cancer incidents in the 14-county tribal jurisdiction, groups who may be more likely to develop cancer and communities whose residents have a higher average of cancer diagnosis.
Data can lead to targeted prevention activities, such as smoking cessation programs, mammography screenings and other types of screenings, in an area.
The Cherokee Nation also has a breast and cervical cancer early detection program at 1200 W. Fourth St. in Tahlequah. The program is funded by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant that enrolls underinsured Native women, ages 40-64, for breast cancer screenings. It uses an Oklahoma Breast Care mobile unit that travels to Sallisaw, Nowata and Jay every other month to provide mammograms. For information, call (918) 453-5442.
In addition, the tribe maintains a Comprehensive Cancer Control Program that promotes and educates on cancer prevention and has a support group. A Comprehensive Cancer Policy Program works to get policies changed, such as working to get all Cherokee Nation housing smoke-free.
Cherokee Nation has several upcoming events:
• 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16, is a “Pink Power Walk” for Cherokee Nation employees, to be held just west of the W.W. Keeler Complex.
• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 22, a Women’s Health and Information Fair is being held at Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, with more than 20 vendors. (918) 453-5138.
• 3 to 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 11, the Cherokee Nation hosts a “Look Good … Feel Better” beauty techniques session with professional cosmetologists for cancer patients. Reservations are required. (918) 477-5400.