By Craig Giammona
The symposium, billed by Lata Vasconcellos, a spokeswoman for the hospital, as a “global conversation about the vital statistic of cancer in Queens,” brought several borough politicians to Jamaica Monday. It featured an announcement by state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) that about $1.1 million in state funds had been secured for the purchase of a Position Emission Tomography known as PET. The machine, which can detect cancer in any part of the body, will cost the hospital about $2.8 million.McLaughlin was joined at the symposium by state Sens. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) and City Council members David Weprin (D-Hollis), Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), John Liu (D-Flushing) and James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows). Vasconcellos said that besides McLaughlin, Padavan and Clark had been central in the effort to secure the funds for the scanner, which would be the first of its kind in a public hospital in New York City. The machine, Vasconcellos said, would help the Queens Cancer Center at Queens Hospital reduce the rate of late-stage cancer diagnosis in the borough, which is about three times the national average. The statistic, Vasconcellos said, shows that many Queens residents lack the medical treatment necessary to detect cancer in its early stages, which is vital to surviving the debilitating disease.Antonio Martin, executive director of Queens Hospital Center, linked this disparity to race, saying that in 2006 serious inequalities in health care, particularly with regard to cancer treatment, disproportionately affects black Americans.Fund-raising for the scanner will continue through 2006, Vasconcellos said, as will an overall effort to raise the rate of early-cancer detection among Queens residents.Reach Reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 146.