In a four-year span, from 2012 to 2016, over 300 people in the CNMI have been diagnosed with a form of cancer, according to Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., citing its numbers.
Within that period, a total of 309 residents were diagnosed with cancer, CHCC said Wednesday, with gynecological cancer leading the pack at 75 instances, or 25 percent.
Gastrointestinal cancers followed closely at 65 diagnoses or 21 percent; head and neck cancers at 59 diagnoses or 19 percent; breast cancer at 46 diagnoses or 15 percent; lung cancer at 29 diagnoses or 9 percent; urological cancer at 18 diagnoses at 6 percent; and 16 other diagnosed cancers at 5 percent.
CHCC noted that gynecological cancer, the leading cancer diagnosis in the CNMI, is easily detectable due to the presence of human papillomavirus, or HPV, even before it can develop into cervical cancer.
“A Pap smear and HPV test are simple and important screening exams that can detect these abnormal changes in the cervix,” CHCC noted in a statement, adding that both tests can easily be done with a visit to an obstetrician gynecologist or even a primary care doctor.
“According to the CNMI’s Cancer Registry, gynecological cancer ranks the highest among all cancers diagnosed in the CNMI. From 2012 to 2016, gynecological cancer rates are 95 per 100,000 women for those age 21 to 64 years old,” CHCC stated, adding that through their breast and cervical screening program under the Division of Public Health Services, they celebrated Cervical Cancer Awareness Month throughout January with collaborative activities such as outreach screening clinics on Rota and Tinian.
“These two-and-a-half-day clinics were able to reach and screen 25 women who have either never had a Pap test or whose last Pap test was three or more years ago,” CHCC noted.
Similar outreach efforts in partnership with the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Kensington Hotel, Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, Kanoa Resort, and Pacific Islands Club Saipan helped spread awareness of cervical cancer to over 2,000 total employees.
CHCC was also able to partner with the Saipan Filipino-American Lions Club and the Santa Remedios Church in Tanapag with Fr. Neil Bullos. Combined, they were able to reach out to 130 individuals.
“Cervical cancer can be prevented by getting the HPV vaccine, routine scheduling of Pap smears and HPV tests, and by practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors,” CHCC noted, adding that both male and females may obtain HPV as early as 11 years old, further increasing the importance of the vaccine.
The Breast and Cervical Screening Program can assist women in getting a Pap smear and HPV test if there are between the ages of 21 and 64, are uninsured or underinsured, and have resided in the CNMI for at least a year.