More than 42,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer in the U.S. mainland while at least 100 are diagnosed in the CNMI, according to the Commonwealth Cancer Association.
“It’s never an easy topic to talk about,” said CCA president Bo Palacios, who reported that since the CCA started keeping record in 2010, there had been 120 incidences in the CNMI so far.
“Between oral and breast cancer, there are usually one or two top incidences of cancer in the CNMI, but it is oral cancer that is especially deadly,” Palacios said. “Of the 120 people diagnosed since 2010, almost 60 percent have succumbed to the disease.”
Palacios presented the facts to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios as they prepared to sign the document declaring April as the National Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
“The statistics are grim, but we are approaching it at every angle,” Palacios added.
Thirty-six-year-old oral cancer survivor Melvin T. Sakisat was diagnosed with oral cancer at the age of 34. He is now fully recovered and had to quit chewing betel nut.
“…We say it is traditional, part of our culture. But I believe we have to stop, especially our youth,” he said. “I still see a lot of minors chewing.”
In a separate interview, Sakisat said he wishes to educate people about oral cancer. Sakisat, who started chewing at the age of 12, has not chewed betel nut since 2013.
“I want people to know that they should avoid chewing [betel nut] with tobacco,” he said. “I urge everyone out there, especially young children, to quit chewing. If you are thinking of trying out chewing to look good in front of your friends, don’t.”
“Chemotherapy is not fun,” he added.