Cancer concerns voiced at packed KCC meeting

PUHI — There was a full house at the Kaua‘i Community College fine dining facility Friday when experts from the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center introduced the center to Kaua‘i.

Dr. Kevin Cassel, the UH education and community affairs coordinator, said the free informational session was an opportunity for Kaua‘i people to learn more about the cancer center.

UH doctors and local oncologists were among the speakers at the one-day session, “New Frontiers: Unraveling Cancer in Hawai‘i,” to discuss cancer causes, cancer prevention, and latest research and treatment findings.

Dr. Katarina Leckova, an oncologist at the Kaua‘i Medical Clinic, said through her personal observations since arriving on Kaua‘i, she has noticed higher incidences of cancer on Kaua‘i than on other islands after comparing her observations with colleagues.

Additionally, she noticed higher incidences of certain types of cancer within the various ethnic populations on the island, and of more concern, the higher incidences of cancer and epidemiological disorders in certain areas on the island.

Mililani “Mels” Tejada, a cancer survivor and Kaua‘i resident, moved some people to tears when she described her experience fighting cancer.

Speakers also included: Dr. David Ward, associate director for Basic Science and Translational Research at the UH Cancer Center and an expert on cancer and genetics; Dr. Herbert Yu, director of the Cancer Epidemiology Program and associate director of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the UH Cancer Center, and Dr. Erin Bantum, a researcher and psychologist at the UH Cancer Center.

“This is just the first outreach program,” Cassel said. “We’ll be back again.”

Friday’s panel was moderated by Maryanne Kusaka, a former Kaua‘i mayor.

The UH Cancer Center is one of 66 National Cancer Institute-designated centers in the United States.

Affiliated with the University of Hawai‘i, the center’s mission is to eliminate cancer through research, education and improved patient care.

The UH Cancer Center is, along with its clinical partners — The Queen’s Medical Center, Hawai‘i Pacific Health, Kuakina Medical Center and the UH Manoa John A. Burns School of Medicine — a part of the UH Cancer Consortium.

The consortium is an alliance of the state’s leading health care organizations with a common goal of eliminating cancer through science.

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