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WILLOWBROOK : Cancer Society Plans New Office


As part of an effort to promote greater cancer awareness among African Americans and Latinos, the American Cancer Society has announced plans to open an office in Willowbrook.

The office, scheduled to open in late summer, will distribute cancer prevention and early detection information and assist cancer patients throughout south Los Angeles.

"I hope the office will let people know there is an American Cancer Society and that our job is to be a resource to the community," said Beulah Anderson, executive director for the society's Central Los Angeles Unit.

The Willowbrook location will be the first of three inner-city offices to open as part of the Cancer Society's goal to increase services in areas it previously had not targeted, especially low-income and minority neighborhoods.

The other offices are planned for the Crenshaw District and Huntington Park.

Although the location for the Willowbrook office has not been firmed up, organizers are looking for space near Avalon and El Segundo boulevards.

Anderson said the new offices are in accordance with an action plan drafted by Cancer Society branches statewide in the late 1980s.

The plan to expand into areas not formerly served came at a time when African Americans in California were suffering cancer-related mortality rates 10% higher than those for whites.

Local cancer researcher Mary Ashley said much of that figure can be attributed to a lack of information about the disease and a reluctance to discuss it in the African American community.

"In this community, the whole issue of cancer is a big secret, and most people who have cancer don't want you to know. It's a stigma," said Ashley, who works at the cancer center at Drew University of Medicine and Science in Willowbrook.

Ashley, president of the Central Los Angeles Unit, said the Willowbrook office will be a testing ground for some of the cancer prevention methods she has been researching. For example, breast cancer survivors are being sought to determine whether they can be more effective than those who have never had cancer in persuading women to have mammograms.

Ashley said a top priority for the office will be finding ways to encourage more African American men to get checked for prostate cancer. Other priorities include efforts to promote healthy eating, quitting smoking, and breast cancer prevention and early detection.

Informational workshops and seminars will not be limited to the office. Organizers plan to use schools, libraries and churches to spread word of the disease and how to avoid it.

In addition, the office will coordinate fund-raising activities and support services for cancer patients such as counseling and treatment sessions.

Although cancer rates for Latinos are roughly the same as for whites, Anderson said there is still little information about the disease in Spanish.

To change that, organizers plan to provide information in both Spanish and English and to staff the office with bilingual volunteers.

Volunteers, regardless of their linguistic abilities, will be crucial to the success of the office because there will be only one full-time staff member, Anderson said. Anyone interested in volunteering is urged to call.

Watts resident Sandra Reed volunteered late last year and is on the community steering committee helping to plan the office and its activities.

"I contribute my time because there is such a great need to make people aware that you can survive cancer," Reed said.

Information: (213) 386-6102.

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