Comprehensive Cancer Control in American Samoa
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States with a population of about 55,000 located about 2,500 miles south of Hawaii. 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. Screening tests are done on the island, but 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 was needed.
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. Recognizing the financial challenges in an area where more than 60% of the population has an income below the federal poverty level, the ASCCC began to raise funds to provide stipends for cancer patients to improve their quality of life. The ASCCC has given about 50 stipends of $500 each. Focusing on education and awareness, the ASCCC received funds (Pacific CEED) to develop the Tasi le Ola, (One Life) project that helped women overcome their fears about breast cancer through a radio serial drama.
These represent only a few of the projects that the ASCCC and its partners have accomplished. By continuing to help the population make behavioral changes at the interpersonal, community, and policy levels, the ASCCC hopes to reduce cancer in American Samoa.