November 27, 2013 | by Nicole White
Though fairly unusual in most of the United States, gastric cancer is the second most common cancer in the world.
However, because of its diverse population, Los Angeles County has a disproportionate number of cases of this cancer, which tends to be more common among Asian ethnicities. In fact, the rate of gastric cancers in Los Angeles County is nearly 10 per 100,000, significantly higher than the national rate of 6.7 per 100,000.
A new partnership with Seoul National University Hospital, one of South Korea’s largest and most reputable teaching hospitals, and City of Hope will seek to reach out to Asian populations and provide them with information and screening to catch these cancers at earlier stages.
“This partnership will not only allow both institutions to benefit by sharing research, knowledge and best practices, but will also offer City of Hope an avenue for reaching underserved communities in our area,” said Joseph Kim, M.D., head of Upper GI Surgery and director of the Surgical Oncology Training Program at City of Hope.
In other countries where gastric cancer is common, insurance routinely covers screening for the cancer by endoscopy. In the United States, however, screening is covered only if there is some evidence that patients have additional risk factors. A common precursor to gastric cancer is the presence of Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that can be detected with a simple breath test. H. pylori is a common cause of peptic ulcers.
One of the first outreach efforts, scheduled to begin early next year, will reach out to populations at highest risk and offer a limited number of free screenings for the bacteria.
“Asian ethnicity is a risk factor for gastric cancer, which is often times found when it’s more advanced,” Kim said. “In Los Angeles, a very high percentage of Koreans with gastric cancer were born in Korea. It is our hope that our new partners will be able to help us reach these patients and get them the care that they need.”