WRIR residents at high risk for cancers, screening program began today through Friday at WR Casino

Eilene Brown (patient), St. Stephens is shown getting a mammogram from Marla Armstrong, Mammogram Technologist with DMS Health Technologies. (GE) 

(Wind River Reservation, Wyo.) – The results of a two-year-long study on the Wind River Indian Reservation reveal that cancer risks for residents there is very high when compared with the rest of the state’s population. Ninety-nine percent of Native American residents have at least one cancer risk factor while 51 percent has three or more risk factors, according to the Wyoming Department of Health Cancer Burden for Native Americans in Wyoming Data Brief. The study was initiated in 2010.

To address this alarming statistic, GE, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Wyoming Department of Health are hosting a four day cancer screening program beginning today through Friday at the Wind River Casino south of Riverton. Designed to increase awareness about cancer risks and prevention, the program includes special guest speakers from the Wyoming Department of Health and GE, information to all interested in breast health and cancer education, and will feature the GE’s Mammovan, a mobile mammography unit onsite offering breast cancer screenings. 

The outreach is in cooperation with the Native American Partnership, the Tribes of Wind River, the Comprehensive Cancer Control Consortium and the Wyoming Cancer Surveillance Program, and assisted by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center and the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council. 

Liz Mikesell, director of the Wyoming Comprehensive Cancer Control Program in Cheyenne said “The average age of a cancer diagnosis for a Reservation resident is 58 years old, earlier than the average age of other Wyoming residents, and because screening is not being done routinely, the cancers are much more advanced by the time they are found, and harder to treat. Having the Mammovan there will hopefully address the screening issues we’ve found through the data.” 

According to Mikesell, earlier diagnosis of cancer generally results in a better survival prognosis than a cancer detected in its later stages. 

Some of the findings of the two-year study found that risk factors for cancer in the Native American population include tobacco use, being overweight, a lack of physical activity, heavy alcohol use and a diet that does not usually include fruits and vegetables. Survival rates were generally five years after a cancer diagnosis, with the lowest survival rate among lung cancer patients (7.5 percent live at least five years) with the highest survival among breast cancer patients (86.9 percent) after five years. 

The most common cancers among Native American adults were bladder, breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers. 

“It’s important to make a change in these cancer rates on the Reservation,” Mikesell said. “The cancer screening this month is the first step.” 

Pat Pearman, executive director of oncology & disease solutions, healthymagination, GE, said “healthymagination is committed to increasing access to quality care. Through this partnership with Susan G. Komen and the Wyoming Department of Health, we hope that the deployment of tools to fight breast cancer will help make cancer not only a curable disease but ultimately a preventable one.” 

The screenings are available to all women, but women living on the Reservation are especially encouraged to participate in the screenings. For Wyoming women who are uninsured or underserved, and who have not had a cancer screening, there is funding available through a generous grant from the Susan G. Komen to the Wyoming Foundation for Cancer Care and the Caring for Women Program. Women must call 855-WY-MAMMO to apply or learn more on www.wywomenfirst.com. 

“The mission of Susan G. Komen has always emphasized addressing various disparities in breast cancer incidence and mortality,” said Chandini Portteus, chief mission officer at Susan G. Komen. “We are proud to be working with GE, the Wyoming Comprehensive Cancer Control Consortium and the Native American Women’s Health Program to provide screenings to Native Americans and the uninsured and underinsured—many of whom may be receiving their first such screening—in order to increase their chances of benefitting from early detection of breast cancer.” 

The outreach effort by GE is part of its Healthymagination program, a $6 billion strategy to revolutionize the world’s health by improving the quality, access and affordability of care. 

L-R Rosella Moss - Fort Washakie, Phyllis Robertson - Arapahoe, and Georgine Brown - Fort Washakie share a laugh at a cancer screening information session. (GE)

L-R Rosella Moss – Fort Washakie, Phyllis Robertson – Arapahoe, and Georgine Brown – Fort Washakie share a laugh at a cancer screening information session. (GE)