Federal Way clinic tackles stomach cancer disparity with summit

Stomach Cancer Advisory Council members Tony Benton (CEO of Musica Entertainment) and Dr. Joo Ha Hwang (chief of Gastroenterology, Harborview Medical Center). - Contributed photo
Stomach Cancer Advisory Council members Tony Benton (CEO of Musica Entertainment) and Dr. Joo Ha Hwang (chief of Gastroenterology, Harborview Medical Center).
— image credit: Contributed photo

Asian Americans in Washington state are at greater risk for stomach cancer than most realize, according to statistics from Cornerstone Medical Services. Korean Americans are eight times and Vietnamese Americans are three times more likely to get stomach cancer than their white counterparts.

And tragically, about 70 percent of those are diagnosed with stomach cancer in U.S. die within five years because they are diagnosed so late. Worldwide, stomach cancer is the number two cause of cancer-related deaths, Cornerstone officials said.
"These are alarming statistics,” said Dr. Joo Ha Hwang, chief of gastroenterology at Harbor View Medical Center. “Frustrated, many Asian Americans go on medical tourism trips to Asia. While this may keep the reporting of stomach cancer artificially low, lack of awareness and funding also prevents world-class medical research centers in the Seattle area from developing innovative solutions that can save lives. With early screening and diagnosis, stomach cancer is potentially preventable and likely to be cost-effective.”
Compelled by the stories of all those in Washington state who died invisibly from stomach cancer, Suzanne Pak, vice president of community and human services of Cornerstone Medical Center, decided to do something about it.  With guidance from Dr. Linda Ko, researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who specializes in developing cancer intervention programs for Hispanic and Asian immigrant communities, Pak applied for grants to launch a community engagement infrastructure around stomach cancer prevention.
The effort paid off. Cornerstone Medical Services in Federal Way was recently awarded a $15,000 contract from Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a $5,000 grant from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a $3,000 grant from the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea to “Make Stomach Cancer a Health Priority Among Asian Americans.”
With these grants, Cornerstone and the advisory council members will host an all-day summit from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Clarion Hotel in Federal Way. Those interested in participating in the summit can RSVP to or 253-200-1988.
Group discussions will be facilitated by Rep. Cindy Ryu (32nd Legislative District), Dr. Marguerite Ro (chief of assessment, policy, development and evaluation of Seattle King County Public Health), Ken Taylor (CEO of Valley Cities), Dorothy Wong (executive director of Chinese Information and Service Center), and Michael Itti (executive director of Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs).


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