Comprehensive Cancer Control in American Samoa
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located approximately 2,500 miles south of Hawaii. With a 2006 population estimate of 62,600, cancer is the second leading cause of death. Some of the most common cancers (lung, breast, cervical, and colon) are preventable through behavioral changes and/or screening. However, while screening tests are performed on the island, most diagnostic and treatment services are completed off-island, mostly in Hawaii or New Zealand. With the rising cost of health care and workforce shortages, a collaborative effort across the cancer care continuum needed to be formed to help reduce the cancer morbidity and mortality on the island.
In 2004, the American Samoa Community Cancer Coalition (ASCCC) was formed, and is comprised of partnerships involving government departments, traditional and religious leaders, and community members who could help overcome some of the barriers that we face. Knowing that there is a financial impact to a population where more than 60% of the population has an income below the federal poverty level, the ASCCC began to fundraise to provide stipends for cancer patients to improve their quality of life. Currently, the ASCCC has given approximately 50 stipends at $500 per stipend. Focusing on education and awareness, the ASCCC received funds (Pacific CEED) to develop the Tasi le Ola, or One Life project that helped to empower women, through a radio serial drama, to overcome their fears about breast cancer.
These represent only a few of the projects that the ASCCC and its partners have accomplished, and there are still many barriers ahead. A major one is its geographic isolation, as it is 2,500 miles from Honolulu and commercial travel to American Samoa can be limited and expensive. By continuing to help the population make behavioral changes at the interpersonal, community, and/or policy levels, the ASCCC hopes to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality levels in American Samoa.