Retired local physician Dr. Jack Hardy remembers what happened a few years ago when the Commonwealth Cancer Association (CCA) launched a project to develop an educational DVD about colorectal cancer in the CNMI: the project failed.
“We identified several survivors of colorectal cancer who were well-known, respected members of the community and asked them to participate in the project. We felt that personal stories would be a particularly powerful way to get the message out about this very common, vey preventable, form of cancer,” Dr. Hardy recalls. “But no one wanted to talk about it.”
The social and emotional stigmas associated with cancers of the colon and rectum proved too great. The CCA suspended the project.
Dr. Hardy serves as senior advisor to the Commonwealth Cancer Association, the local cancer support organization for the CNMI. Like many other public health officials, he believes that the need to break through the sensitivity and silence surrounding colorectal cancer has never been more urgent. “There is a high incidence rate here in the CNMI,” Dr. Hardy says. “We absolutely need to talk about colorectal cancer. We need to talk about it openly, and we need to talk about it now.”