Community News

Cancer Screenings

Seneca Nation, Roswell Park highlight importance of early cancer screenings

May 10, 2022 |

Lafayette Williams, 58, lives on the Seneca Nation of Indians Cattaraugus Territory in Gowanda and enjoys spending time with his aunt, a long-time breast cancer survivor.

Williams has undergone a number of cancer screenings, including on his lungs, as he has been a smoker off and on for 48 years, and averaged about a pack a day.

“Coughing up gray phlegm and I said ‘something’s wrong, something’s got to be going on here,’ so I had to get it checked out,” Williams said.

He’s also been screened for colorectal cancer, but like many, he really didn’t want to be.

“I was actually going through an anxiety attack at the office when my blood pressure … shot up. Started realizing this is really happening, I’m really getting tested. It could be bad, I could have cancer,” Williams said.

That is why Dr. Rodney Haring from the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research at Roswell Park in Buffalo encourages Native Americans to get screened and help reduce the impact cancer has on the high risk community.

“So, the survivorship from colorectal cancer and other cancers are better,” Haring said. “The screening is really part of that medicine, screening is part of that innovation, and screening is really important in finding the right mechanism to treat cancer.”

Marissa Haring, a community patient navigator at the Center, helps guide those like Williams through the process, as well as provide support, and raise awareness about cancer prevention and screenings.

“So us being there to kind of bridge that gap between community members and cancer care centers is super important,” Haring said.

Haring also has an office at Native Pride in Irving, home of the J.C. Seneca Foundation, celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“Kind of goes pretty quickly,” J.C. Seneca, J.C. Seneca Foundation president, said. “We’ve been able to do a lot of different things to help our community and surrounding communities around our territory.”
One of those things was a good health initiative in March that focused on the importance of colorectal and other screenings, with an emphasis on listening to the body, much like the message to Seneca after suffering a recent heart problem.

“Sometimes things go on within our bodies that we kind of ignore or we don’t pay attention to. Or we say is something else. But we need to listen to those things and get checked out,” Seneca adds.

Williams’ colonoscopy and lung screening came back negative.

“Really grateful to all of them,” Williams said. “I was relieved and then it really made me think about stopping, cutting down on smoking.”

He is down to about two cigarettes a day, a move he says makes him feel better than ever.

“Raking leaves or shoveling snow, I was running out of breath,” Williams said. “I can see myself now breathing better and actually want to start exercising.”