Cancer Program Projects and Activities

The Cancer Program is completely funded by grants written by program staff with support from the administrative staff from the Division of Community Health Service. These grants are for specific projects, special programs and cancer plan implementation. They are from federal, state and private sources.

Community member and provider knowledge building

International Telehealth Palliative Care Symposium. An annual provider educational event which includes some of the same nationally known palliative care experts as the onsite symposiums that were held in 2005 – 2007. Previous symposiums provided three different ways for individuals to participate: via video teleconferencing, online through Web streaming, and local in-person sessions at each participating site. The second international telehealth palliative care symposium was held April 27-29, 2010 and used an Internet connection. The transition from on-site to Web streaming (all that is needed is an Internet connection) allows the conference to continue at a significantly lower cost as the main grant funding has ended.

QUOTE: "It is wonderful to have such a great venue and an opportunity to hear speakers from all over without having to leave the village! I think we are seeing a technology that will become very important in the future and really could benefit our Health Aides in the villages." -- CHA

Giant Colon Day of Event 11-4-10 018

Nolan the Giant Colon. Nolan is part of the ANTHC Cancer Program plan to "normalize" colorectal cancer by making it something Alaska Native people can talk about comfortably. Nolan is 25 feet long, 10 feet high, and 12 feet wide, and is a commanding presence in any room. Nolan's first trip within the Alaska Tribal Health System was to Nome in November 2010.

Nolan is available to other communities in Alaska for health fairs and events where his message of colorectal cancer screening can be heard. Contact Judith Muller at or (907) 729-4491 to schedule a visit.

Patient services

Alaska Native Medical Center Oncology Clinic Support. The Cancer Program provides the following assistance to the clinic:

  • Educational support (allowing a clinic nurse to become certified to train health corporation nurses to administer chemotherapy in regional hospitals)
  • Continuing education support
  • Special studies
  • Small equipment support
  • American College of Surgeons certification readiness assistance
  • Cancer center project development support

Colorectal Cancer Screening. Screening and education grants were awarded to 22 states and four tribal organizations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three of the four tribal grants were received by tribes in Alaska: Southcentral Foundation, Arctic Slope Native Association, and ANTHC’s Epidemiology Center. In addition, Cancer Program staff serve on the joint state/tribal colorectal cancer committee which has worked together to combine resources to further the capacity of state healthcare organizations to expand colorectal cancer education and screening.

Integrated Symptom Assessment and Collection (ISAAC). This is a tool for monitoring pain and symptoms. This pilot project (the first in the U.S.) at the Alaska Native Medical Center Oncology Clinic will assist providers take better care of patients and help cancer patients be more involved in managing their pain and symptoms. This project was funded by a National Cancer Institute, Indian Health Service, Quality of Cancer Control Committee grant. This is the only program in Alaska.

Post-treatment Patient Navigation Project. Patients who receive care at Alaska Native Medical Center and are discharged to their home community often find they have questions or concerns when they return home. To help ease the transition between care at ANMC and in their region, the Cancer Program and the Alaska Native Medical Center Oncology Clinic developed a pilot project to provide phone and/or telehealth navigation services for post-treatment patients. This project is funded by a Mayo Clinic Spirit of Eagles grant and is the only program like it in Alaska.

Support programs

Alaska Aces Paint the Rink Pink. This is a public education and fundraising event for cancer programs in Anchorage. The funds raised are shared between the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Breast Cancer Focus (BCF) organization. The ACS funds are used to provide housing and transportation for people who come to Anchorage for cancer treatment. Patients receiving cancer care at the Alaska Native Medical Center use the funds for travel and housing.

Camp Coho. A one-day children’s grief camp for 6–12 year old Alaska Native children was first held in March 2007. The camp format uses talking circles, art activities, and play to help children express their reactions to loss and grief. It helps address the lack of grief resources for Alaska Native children living in remote communities. The goal of Camp Coho is to provide a safe, supportive environment for grieving children to share their feelings about losing a loved one to cancer or another chronic disease. Children attending are given the opportunity to meet other children who have experienced a similar loss and learn that they are not alone in their grief journey. A second camp was held May 8, 2010. The next camp will be held in 2012.

Cancer patient comfort bagsCancer Patient Comfort Bags and Cancer Information Binders. Bags are distributed to patients receiving cancer treatment at the Alaska Native Medical Center. Bags contain comfort items such as a blanket, dental kit, hand sanitizer, coffee mug, water bottle and other items as well as a binder of information about cancer and cancer treatments, appointment logs, a place to list prescriptions, calendar, place for lab results, etc. The bag is funded primarily through donations. This is the only cancer program in the state that provides bags and information binders to its patients.

The Lu Young Fund for Children of Families Fighting Cancer allows staff to respond quickly to a request for help from cancer patients with children under the age of 18 years and who have limited financial resources. Referral is through health care teams at the Alaska Native Medical Center, and allows the Cancer program staff to immediately responds to the request. The fund has helped about 100 families since its inception in 2004, with part of the donations from an annual fundraiser.

Men’s Retreat for Prostate and Testicular Cancer Survivors. This pilot project was held in September 2009. It demonstrated that there is a need for special programs for male cancer survivors. Funding for the retreat was received from State of Alaska, the Men’s Run, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Alaska Radiology, Alaska Urological Clinic. A second Men’s Retreat was held September 10-12, 2010. Two Men's Retreats are planned for 2012: Southeast Alaska, June 1-3, 2012, and in Cooper Landing, September 7-9, 2012.  For more information for the September 2012 Men's Retreat, click here for brochure and click here for 2012 application.

Participant quote: What a beautiful spot for men to come and "heal" and have the opportunity to discuss openly and frankly with other men about their concerns, frustrations and positive progress with their cancer."

Support resources

Palliative Care booklet Palliative Care, Easing the Journey with Care, Comfort and Choices. An Introduction to palliative care for patients, families, caregivers and communities. This 32 page booklet is designed to explain palliative care and the fact that it begins at diagnosis of a disease and supports the mind, body and spirit. The importance of recognizing that "everyone" is part of the palliative care team, not just the doctor or nurse is explained. Also explains why it is important to let the healthcare team know culture traditions and where someone wants to be for the reminder of life. Identifying community assets to help support someone who wants to come home is key.

Click this link to order copies of the Palliative Care booklet.


Traditional Food Guide bookTraditional Food Guide for Alaska Native Cancer Survivors. The food guide provides easy-to-understand nutrition information for Alaska Native cancer survivors, their families, and health care team. This is the first time nutrition information gathered from many sources about Alaska’s wild foods is available in one booklet. The food guide is being carried in 11 bookstores, with sales dollars going into a reprint fund for the third printing of the guide.

QUOTE: "The guide provided more tools to help my mom fight her cancer to the best of her and our [family’s] abilities. Not only medically, but physically, mentally at all stages of her disease." -- Family member of cancer survivor

The book is distributed free to cancer patients, provided to all CHAP clinics, village libraries. Many health corporations, schools and villages continue to buy the book. It has become a healthy lifestyle tool for all Alaskans.

Click this link to order copies of the Traditional Food Guide.

4000 Ambassador Drive ¤ Anchorage, AK 99508 ¤ 907-729-1900 Fax: 907-729-1901