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Bi-national symposium highlights blood cancer issue in Imperial and Mexicali valleys

By HERIC RUBIO | Staff Writer



IMPERIAL — The inaugural Bi-National Blood Cancer Symposium was held Saturday morning, shedding light and providing information on a number of blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, for members of both Imperial and Mexicali communities.

The symposium, held inside Imperial Valley College’s Health Sciences building, featured speakers from both sides of the border, including Dr. Syed Hasnat Ahmed, director of oncology and hematology at El Centro Regional Medical Center, Dr. Horacio Rodiles, who was recently appointed to the United States section of the United States/Mexico Border Health Commission, and Mexicali-based oncologist Dr. Diego Alfonso Ballesteros Pino, among other experts on the subject.


Blood cancers affect the production and function of blood cells, and tend to begin in the bone marrow where blood is produced, according to the American Society of Hematology. These abnormal blood cells prevent blood from performing many of its functions, like fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.


Saturday’s symposium, sponsored by the Cancer Resource Center for the Desert and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, addressed many of those issues to an audience made up of members of both valleys.


“While we are separated nationally and linguistically, the Imperial and Mexicali Valleys are, in reality, one geographical valley. We share the same air, water, and topography,” said Diana Peacher, CRCD chief executive officer. “We wondered if there are similar blood cancer statistics on the Mexican side of the US/Mexico border and if the same treatment options are available there. Our hope is that it will raise more questions giving researchers an opportunity to consider further investigations.”


Participants were presented with information regarding local statistics regarding blood cancers -- such as the estimated 70 Imperial County residents who will be diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in the Imperial County this year. Also touched on was the changing health status in the Imperial Valley compared to the rest of California and where treatment could be found in Mexicali.


“There’s so much information I wasn’t aware of,” said Mexicali resident Lucia Iñiquez, in Spanish. “My mother was diagnosed with leukemia recently, so when I heard about this I thought I should come learn.”


Iñiquez, a self-proclaimed “fast food lover,” said she was most interested in learning about the way diet can help in both treating and preventing cancers of the blood.


“I’m definitely going to take what I learned and incorporate it into my life, for my mom’s and my family’s health,” she said.


Staff Writer Heric Rubio can be reached at 760-337-3442 or hrubio@ivpressonline.com

Article Reprinted Courtesy of Imperial Valley Press