June 6 is National Cancer Survivors Day
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office
June 6 is National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual, worldwide celebration of life that is held in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and other participating countries. National Cancer Survivors Day is a day to honor cancer survivors for their strength and courage and recognize the contributions of families, friends, and healthcare providers. The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation defines a survivor as anyone living with a history of cancer, from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. An estimated 11.1 million Americans are living with a cancer diagnosis, and many are American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Do you know a survivor or are you one yourself? If so, then you are probably aware that survivors can live a fulfilling life after diagnosis and treatment, but they also face a host of problems. Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Survivors may face many challenges including access to cancer specialists and promising new treatments, denial of health and life insurance coverage, financial hardships long after the initial diagnosis and treatment, employment problems, psychological struggles and the strain on personal relationships and the profound fear of recurrence.
There are resources to help address these challenges. Here are a few websites to check:
- http://www.livestrong.org website of The LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare program of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which provides help addressing financial and insurance concerns, counseling and referrals to local resources, and matching to clinical trials.
- www.natamcancer.org - website of Native American Cancer Research (NACR) , an American Indian -based organization with a mission to reduce cancer incidence and increase survival among Native Americans; the site provides information for survivors, including spirituality, traditional healing, clinical trials, side effects, and telephone numbers to network with other survivors.
If you are a survivor, do you realize that you are also a resource for others? Cancer survivors in native communities can be invaluable resources to raise cancer awareness and to educate others about the importance of screening for prevention or early detection of cancer. The Indian Health Service (IHS) network of clinics plays an important role in cancer prevention and early detection by providing screenings for American Indians and Alaska Natives. In 2009, IHS reported a 59% screening rate on its cervical cancer screening measure, a 45% screening rate for its breast cancer screening with mammography measure, and a 33% screening rate for its colorectal cancer screening rate. Improving these rates can save lives. For example, if cervical cancer is detected early through pap screening, the likelihood of survival is almost 100%. Please help to improve these rates by encouraging others to be screened and letting them know that with regular screenings, even if cancers are discovered, survival is a real possibility.