Community event offers Asians information on cancer
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News July 10, 2012 2:34PM
caption: The "Let's Celebrate Health" event June 30 in Streamwood was geared toward raising awareness of cancer prevention and management for Asian populations.
Updated: August 12, 2012 6:12AM
One of Reena Patel’s memories of her grandmother is the bloody tissues she left in the bathroom. Reluctant to seek medical treatment even when her breast cancer had become advanced, the woman is now an example Patel uses when urging other Asian women to understand cancer.
Patel was one of three speakers at the recent “Let’s Celebrate Health” — a free luncheon held at the Seville in Streamwood. Nearly 100 attended the event, targeted at Laotian women.
“If we don’t take care of ourselves and get screened, we will die of cancer more than any other racial groups living in America,” said Patel, sharing the story of her grandmother’s experience with a cancerous tumor in her breast.
“She didn’t even know cancer existed in the breast. It had burst open and was excreting blood.”
Patel, program consultant for Asian Health Coalition, encouraged women to visit health care providers for breast cancer screenings, and for pelvic examinations and pap smears to test for cervical cancer.
“Cancer is not a death sentence,” said Patel, noting that Asians make up two-thirds of the world’s population. “Lao American women have more cases of cervical cancer than any other groups.”
The VNA Health Care’s Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) offers screenings for breast and cervical cancer for underinsured or uninsured women, but Patel said usage is actually low.
“We have to figure out why are they not using this program?” Patel said. “Do they not know about it?”
To address that concern, an initiative called The Silk Brocade Project was started to reach out to at-risk groups.
Also at the event, May Saengpraseuth, Lao American Organization Elgin community worker, spoke in Lao about the impact of cancer.
The Lao American Organization Elgin presented the program with the Asian Health Coalition and VNA Health Care.
Elisa Lara, a registered nurse and clinical coordinator for VNA Health Care, talked about the impact of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer, of which head, neck and skin cancers are HPV-related.
“HPV is associated with about 5 percent of all cancers worldwide,” she said. “Both males and females are at risk of HPV-related cancer, although cervical cancer affects only females.”
A vaccine is offered for children ages 9 years and up to age 26 in adults, Lara said, explaining it is designed to halt HPV infection. She also emphasized that a pelvic exam is different from a pap smear, so patients should not assume they’ve had a pap smear.
Physicians’ offices, public health clinics and health centers are resources for those services, she said.
More information about VNA Health Care is available at www.vnahealth.com.