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Hmong immigrants face high rates of cancer

 "" PHOTO - Chong Yia Xiong of Stockton displays a photo of his late wife, Chou Vang, who died of cancer. UC Davis offers Hmong-speaking
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Chong Yia Xiong of Stockton displays a photo of his late wife, Chou Vang, who died of cancer. UC Davis offers Hmong-speaking "navigators" to help families through cancer treatment.
   
Many of the 15,000 Hmong immigrants arriving in the United States in the next year will confront an illness that has no name in the Hmong language — cancer. According to research presented at the fifth Asian American Cancer Control Academy last fall, the Hmong in California face rates of nasopharyngeal, cervical, stomach and liver cancer that are up to 16 times higher than for non-Hispanic whites and three times higher than for Asian Americans overall. In addition, the Hmong are much less likely than other ethnic groups in California to have their cancers diagnosed at an early, treatable stage.

More than a third of the nation's 169,000 Hmong — 65,000 — live in California. The U.S. State Department last year granted permission for another 15,000 Hmong to enter the country from Thailand. About half of these newest immigrants are also expected to settle in California.

Through the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), headquartered at UC Davis, researchers have partnered with the Hmong Women's Heritage Association in Sacramento to raise cancer awareness and screening rates among the region's Hmong. The university and Hmong women's group have translated cancer information pamphlets into Hmong and developed and offered Cancer Awareness 101 and Cancer Awareness 201 courses to Hmong community leaders and medical interpreters. Every new Hmong family arriving in the Sacramento region has been offered a free health kit containing cancer screening and early detection information. In addition, UC Davis has launched a patient "navigator" program in which a Hmong medical interpreter accompanies Hmong cancer patients to their medical appointments, helps them understand and follow treatment plans, and provides assistance as needed with insurance, transportation and other barriers.

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