First Lady Jill Biden, along with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, will visit the San Xavier Health Center in the San Xavier District of the Tohono O'odham Nation on Tuesday, March 7, 2022.

Their visit is  part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. Their tour will focus on Tohono O’odham Nation’s cancer program and services, including those provided in partnership with the University of Arizona Cancer Center. 

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“The University of Arizona Cancer Center is focused on cancer prevention, cancer biology, translation of the discoveries in our laboratories to the bedside, disparities research, and education. Since its founding in 1976 by Dr. Sid Salmon, the primary goal of the UACC has been its focus on the underserved: Hispanics, American Indians, people in rural areas, and those with little, if any access to cancer-related care and education," Joan Sweasy, Ph.D., director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, said. “Education has been central to our mission since the founding of the University of Arizona Cancer Center.  We begin by developing local relationships built on trust and work to meet the needs of the local community, such as our relationship here with the Tohono O’odham.”

Monica Yellowhair, Ph.D. is a citizen of the Navajo Nation, who serves as director of outreach and engagement at the University of Arizona Cancer Center on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

"We've been working on this Moonshot project for several years now partnering with several different tribes here in Arizona, and this work is doing a lot as far as getting more and more hybrid people. screened for colon cancer awareness. And so, a habit being highlighted on the national level is really, really nice," Yellowhair said to Native News Online on Monday afternoon. 

First Lady Jill Biden visited the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Michigan last October. (Photo/Native News Online)

Colorectal cancer is the second leading overall cause of cancer death, representing about 9% of all new cancer cases in the United States. Nevertheless, overwhelming evidence exists that screening of healthy individuals to diagnose and then treat early-stage disease can substantially reduce colorectal cancer mortality. Accordingly, regular screening for colorectal cancer is strongly recommended for all U.S. individuals between ages 50 and 75.

Yellowhair says the Cancer Center works with several tribes to increase screening for colon cancer. The tribes include the Tohono O'odham Nation, Navajo Naiton, Hopi Nation, and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.

"Research shows colon cancer screenings have been low among tribal nations. We work to determine where the disconnect is and to help change those efforts to get more and more people screened to increase the screening rates," Yellowhair said.

After the visit to the cancer center, the First Lady and Secretary Becerra will tour the San Xavier del Bac Mission and attend a traditional dance performance by Tohono O’odham members.

This visit will mark the fourth visit to Indian Country for Biden since she became the first lady in January 2021. She visited the Navajo Nation in April 2021 the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in late October 2021 and the Cherokee Nation with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) in December 2021. 






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