Throughout my professional life, I’ve been passionate about everyone getting the cancer screenings they need. And I’ve done a good job of getting myself screened how and when American Cancer Society says that I should. But when I got to 50, the age when you should get screened for colorectal cancer if you are at average risk, I talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. I knew I was a hypocrite, but I put it off for a couple of years.
World Cancer Day, February 4th, happens to fall between two big cancer awareness months: cervical & colorectal cancer. Director of the Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs (LCP), Donna Williams, told the Louisiana Radio network during her interview that, “The goal of World Cancer Day is to raise awareness about cancer prevention methods… Everywhere all across the world there are things that can be done to decrease the deaths from cancer.”
In Louisiana, February means Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras means decadence. Unfortunately, we here at the Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs are all too aware that decadence can mean cancer. Obesity and excessive alcohol consumption have both been linked to a long list of cancers, and the sugar on top of your king cake can literally feed tumor growth. So are health-conscious revelers doomed to miss out on all the fun? Of course not! In fact, by thinking outside of the box, you can find ways to make “Fat Tuesday” one of the healthy-er days of the year.
Cervical cancer does not discriminate. Any woman regardless of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, or geographic area is at risk for cervical cancer, with Louisiana cervical cancer rates and deaths higher than the national average (5th in cervical cancer deaths.) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus shown to not only cause cervical cancer, but certain other cancers and genital warts. The CDC estimates 79 million people in the United States are infected with HPV, with approximately 14 million becoming infected each year and nearly 27,000 U.S. cancers resulting from it. Overall, the National Cancer Institute says HPV causes approximately five percent of all cancers worldwide.
When people are young and asked what they want to be when they grow up, the answers are almost always ambitious. Kids want to be things like astronauts, superheroes, firefighters or movie stars. At that age, kids believe they can make a huge impact because their hearts are full of hope and the possibilities are endless.
Our mission at the Louisiana Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) is to “eliminate suffering and death in Louisiana by focusing on cancers that can be prevented or detected early and cured.“
If you’re someone going through cancer treatment, and ever need to evacuate your home (a strong possibility on the Gulf Coast), please remember these key things as you prepare to leave:
In one of the more recent Tips From Former Smokers television ads, a man named Roosevelt says, “Always thought that cigarette smoking just messed up your lungs. I never thought, at only 45, it would give me a heart attack.”
No one has suddenly discovered a cure for cancer, though you might not know that given how much the topic has been in the news this year. Between changing screening recommendations and talk of a “moonshot” approach to a cure, what’s your average person to think about cancer these days?
Easy Ways You Can Beat Cancer
Let’s start with some good news and advice. Some of the most deadly and common cancers in the United States – and the world – are cancers we can actually do something about easily.
For example, the deadliest and second most common cancer everywhere is lung/bronchus cancer. Tobacco kills and there’s no two ways about it. Don’t use tobacco and the chances that you will end up with these cancers are almost none.
But those cancers are not the only ones tobacco causes. It’s been proven more recently that tobacco also contributes to colon, liver, kidney, bladder, stomach, pancreatic, cervical and rectal cancers, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Throw in the fact that tobacco is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide, and know that it’s a death wish to ever start the habit or not try to quit.
That’s also why so many individuals, companies and communities are working on limiting access and exposure to the stuff through tobacco taxes, smoke-free policies, higher insurance rates, etc. And while many tobacco users (a minority of the population) like to claim its use is a matter of freedom, most people don’t usually think of ingesting poisons and other carcinogenics as “being free.” That’s why there are laws and regulations protecting people from other known toxins and why people don’t play in traffic. Sure, one is free to do so, but it’s not generally considered a good idea.
The freedom argument is weakened further by the fact that non-smokers can get cancer from secondhand smoke, which takes away their choice or right to breathe non-poisonous air. And as tobacco users cost everyone more money in terms of higher monthly health insurance premiums and taxes (for example, direct smoking expenditures cost Louisiana families $1,207 each year), a smoker’s “freedom” is often very expensive for everyone else.
Fortunately, a slew of other cancers don’t have addictive components with which to contend or big corporate backers. These are cancers that can be prevented or caught early. For example, the most common cancer of all is skin and there’s a really easy way to prevent that: protect yourself (and children!) from the sun. It’s that simple.
And then there are cancers that can be prevented and/or caught early through regular screenings. These include breast, prostate, colon and cervical, which, again, are some of the most common and deadly cancers people get. That’s why it’s vitally important that people know what those regular screening intervals are.
When Should I Get Screened?
Ah, there’s the rub, you’re thinking. Haven’t health experts been changing up a bunch of those recommendations? They have and, as bothersome as that is to both the public and the health experts who have to convey that information, the fact is that when it comes to diseases and other scientific advancements, knowledge often comes in incremental bites and sometimes advice changes.
Prostate Cancer: What Men Need To Consider
Take for example, prostate cancer. Other than skin cancer, it’s the most common cancer in men. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their lifetime, while one in 38 will die from it. So when prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, screening tests came along in 1987, men were understandably counseled to get one.
The problem, however, is that prostate cancer screening has had almost no effect in lowering prostate cancer death rates. And that’s because most prostate cancers consist of extremely slow-growing, nonlethal tumors, which never cause harm. Add to that the fact that prostate cancer treatment can often leave men impotent and incontinent, and you’ve got a case where “the cure is worse than the disease.” So the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), which is charged with providing evidence-based recommendations on clinical preventive services, gave the PSA test a “D” rating and advised health providers not to recommend it.
However, that is not to say men need not do anything. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Cancer Society and other health organizations recommend that men learn about prostate cancer and then speak to their doctor to make an informed decision as to what they should do when it comes to screening. Factors such as age (the older a man, the greater the risk), family history (a father, brother or son with the disease means a two-to-three times higher risk) and race (African American men have higher incidence rates) should be considered before undergoing testing. And if a localized cancer is detected, “active surveillance” or “watchful waiting” is emerging as a way of dealing with it. In that process, the cancer is monitored via PSA and digital rectal exams on an ongoing basis and if it worsens, only then treatment is undertaken.
Breast Cancer: When Women Should Mammogram
Then we come to women’s cancer screenings. When the USPSTF changed its breast screening recommendations recently, there was a lot of uproar. In dealing with average-risk women (no family history), the USPSTF recommended that women ages 50 to 74 get mammograms every two years, which was a change from the former annual recommendation. More controversially, the USPSTF recommended that average-risk women, ages 40 to 49, make the mammogram decision on an individual basis, stating that potential harms, such as false-positives and treatment for non-threatening cancers, increases in this age group, but does not substantially lower the death rate.
That’s a bit in contrast with the American Cancer Society, which says that average-risk women ages 40 to 44, should decide on an individual basis; recommends that women ages 45 to 54 get a mammogram every year; and women age 55 and older should get one every two years.
Either way, the takeaway message here is that women need to get screened on a regular basis, either annually or biannually, perhaps starting at age 45 and definitely by age 50, as the risk of breast cancer increases in one’s later 40s and through the 50s. Fortunately, under the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” breast cancer screening is covered (some grandfathered plans may not), so a woman can often choose with her doctor as to what age and how often she can get a mammogram.
Cervical Cancer: Pap Tests How Often for Women?
Cervical cancer screening recommendations have changed too. The days of the annual Pap test are gone, except for high-risk women, and though there are some slight variations in screenings recommendations from various expert health organizations, here is what everyone basically agrees on: Average-risk women ages 21-65 should get a Pap test every three years. Women ages 30-65 should get a Pap test every three years or co-testing with HPV every five years.
And, of course, since the HPV vaccine prevents almost all cervical cancer, all girls age 11-26 should get the vaccine. Boys, age 11-21, need to get the vaccine too as it prevents a number of cancers that also affect them.
Colon Cancer: It Affects Everyone
This one is simple. Average-risk people, age 50 and over, need be screened regularly for colorectal cancer. The good news is that there are a variety of ways to do that, including simple, at-home options and that health insurance now covers those preventive screenings. So talk to your doctor and get screened!
In the end, people should remember there are three easy ways to beat some of our worst cancers: 1) Don’t use tobacco; 2) Get regular screenings; and 3) Cover you and your children up in the sun.
If you remember The Monkees and the Jackson 5, or ever used the term “groovy” in a non-ironic way while sporting an Afro or mop-top, you are probably due for a colorectal cancer screening.
Sure, that may seem like a strange segue to you, but being familiar with these pop culture milestones marks you as someone who is likely to be 50 or older. And that means your colorectal cancer risk is going way up.
Ah, yes, the joys of getting older. The good news, however, is that colorectal cancer screenings can easily detect the disease in a pre-cancerous or early stage, which translates to an over 90 percent survival rate. And now thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, colorectal cancer screening tests are now covered by health insurance with no out-of-pocket expenses for people 50 and older.
If you live in Louisiana, you really need to pay attention to this information. That’s because this highly preventable cancer is killing a lot of people in the Bayou State. Aside from lung cancer, colorectal is the most deadly cancer in the state, which is not surprising when people understand that Louisiana has both the third highest incidence and death rates of colorectal cancer in the country.
Why? Let’s Talk Demographics
Louisiana has a large number of African Americans and, unfortunately, African Americans are the ethnic group with the most colorectal cancer and the most deaths from colorectal cancer in the country. In addition, it seems that health providers are not recommending colorectal cancer screenings as much as they should, with African Americans stating the number one reason they haven’t gotten a screening is because their doctor didn’t tell them to.
A recent study has also shown that Cajuns have some of the highest incidence rates of the disease in the country, due to possible genetic factors. More study is needed on the subject, but Cajuns should understand that they may be more at risk - and that they really need to get screened. Plus anyone who has a history of polyps, colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other related inherited syndromes, should also know to talk to their doctors about when they should start screening and how often.
Finally, people in Louisiana are just unhealthier than a lot of people in the rest of the country. Smoking is one cause of colorectal cancer and Louisianians smoke more than the average U.S. resident. Louisianians also are more likely to be obese, and there is a strong link between obesity and colorectal cancer, especially in men. Diets high in red and processed meats have now been shown to cause colorectal cancer, and there’s no question Louisianians love their sausages and boudin. Throw in heavy alcohol use and a lack of physical activity and you have a deadly mix of ingredients that helps explain Louisiana’s colorectal cancer problem.
So What Can People Do? 80% by 2018
The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, along with newly formed Louisiana Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (LCCRT), are promoting the “80% by 2018” screening goal for everyone 50 and older, so people can spread the word-- or maybe even nudge - family and friends to participate.
As for health providers, they can do the following:
· Be sure your office has adopted or is following evidence-based guidelines from national experts, such as the American Cancer Society or the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
· Be sure to provide screening recommendations for African Americans, Hispanics and the “Newly Insured,” who may not yet understand that these screenings are covered.
· Stress to all patients“the best test is the one you’re going to get,” so that people who can’t, say, afford or take time off from work for a colonoscopy or are just uncomfortable with the idea, understand that they have inexpensive, at-home screening FIT and FOBT options.
· Educate the people who don’t think screening is important, putting it off or rationalizing the need away (“I don’t have a history of it or know anyone with colon cancer…”).
Remember, in the words of the Colon Cancer Alliance, colorectal cancer is “Preventable. Treatable. Beatable.”
To learn more about the LCCRT, please go to: www.louisianacancer.org/lccrt-home.
The LCCRT was established by a partnership of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSUHSC School of Public Health, LSUHSC Shreveport Feist Weiller Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society.
It’s rare that in the face of an extremely difficult problem, that a simple, win-win solution presents itself, but that is happening right now in Louisiana, which is facing both an astronomical health and fiscal crisis.
And it all centers on tobacco. The deadliest, not to mention one of the most common cancers in the state (as well as the country and the world), is lung cancer. That fact should not be news to anyone. But maybe people haven’t totally understood that tobacco has now also been proven to cause a whole host of other cancers, including: colon, liver, kidney, bladder, stomach, pancreatic, cervical and rectal cancers, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
That’s quite a list. Throw in the fact that tobacco is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, which is the top cause of death and disease everywhere, and even somebody who doesn’t have a good grip on health statistics or fiscal matters, can understand that tobacco kills and costs us a lot of money in the process.
Show Us The Money
Tobacco-related disease in Louisiana costs the state $1.89 billion a year in health care costs, which is approximately $2,400 in taxes for every Louisiana family. And that doesn’t even count costs such as the higher health insurance premiums everyone pays because of tobacco. One of the reasons why is Louisiana has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country. Not surprisingly, it turns out when it’s cheap to smoke, more people do it. This is especially true of kids, ensuring a never-ending supply of customers for Big Tobacco, as well as a never-ending and expensive health crisis for the state.
Health experts say that raising the price $1.25 on cigarettes and equalizing the tax rate on other tobacco products will stop 23,000 kids under 18 from starting to smoke (kids are particularly price-sensitive), as well as save 16,000 Louisiana adults from a premature death. And the health savings in the future would amount to millions.
That makes so much sense on the face of it, it would seem it would be a “done deal.” And now the state is catapulting down a $1.6 billion budget hole, which, thanks to the way the state constitution is written, means dire consequences for the health and education of Louisiana citizens, (including possible loss of TOPS college tuition funds and even the loss of the LSU football program). It is clear that something must be done and done fast.
That’s why everyone from health experts to fiscal conservatives are touting a tobacco tax increase. It’s a common sense, fiscally responsible and life-saving solution. It also holds people accountable for their behavior, which is probably why it appeals to people on both sides of the political aisle and why a vast majority of Louisiana voters favor such a tax.
The fact that Louisiana is further recognizing the evils of tobacco is evidenced in the whopping success of the smoke-free ordinance in New Orleans, which is soon celebrating its year anniversary. Only six months after its enactment, the ordinance has an 80 percent approval rating – up from the 66 percent who favored it before it took place. The dire predictions of lost business and revenue in bars and casinos proved to be unfounded.
East Baton Rouge is now considering going smoke-free too, and initial reaction has been more than enthusiastic, with initial polling showing that 70 percent of its voters favor smoke-free policies in all places, including bars and casinos.
It would seem people aren’t buying the “freedom” argument that tobacco users (a minority of the population) and some business owners like to make, as most people don’t usually think of ingesting poisons and other carcinogenics as “being free.” As one public health spokesperson put it, “It’s like playing in traffic. Sure, you’re free to do it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”
The freedom argument is further weakened by the fact that non-smokers can get cancer from secondhand smoke, which takes away their choice or right to breathe non-poisonous air. Just as there are laws and regulations protecting people from other known toxins, people are now recognizing that they need protection from tobacco - history and Big Tobacco money notwithstanding.
In the end, a smoker’s freedom is very expensive in death, disease and costs for everyone else. Louisiana is now recognizing that fact and doing something about it.
For more information about smoking and how to quit, go to the Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs website at http://louisianacancer.org/smoking/.
The CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) are housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health.
If there was an easy way to stop your children from getting cancer, wouldn’t you do it? And wouldn’t you at least expect your doctor to tell you about it? It’s a no-brainer, right?
Wrong. As it turns out, doctors aren’t always doing a good job of making sure kids are being vaccinated against HPV, which can cause cancer later in life. Over and over again, studies, including reports from physicians themselves, show that doctors simply don’t discuss the subject with parents.
This failure has even become a topic of concern nationally. “Doctors, Not Parents, Are The Biggest Obstacle to The HPV Vaccine,” read a recent National Public Radio (NPR) headline, which was accompanied by a story entitled “U.S. Teens Still Lag In Getting Vaccinated Against HPV.” The Boston Globe’s recent story on the subject was entitled “Study Says Doctors Passively Discourage HPV Vaccines,” while The Daily Beast asked “Why Do Doctors Hate This Vaccine?”
The upshot is that parents shouldn’t wait for doctors to recommend the HPV vaccine - parents should tell doctors that their kids (boys and girls) need the HPV vaccine, starting at age 11 and 12.
Doctors, Don’t Treat It As An Option
So why are doctors falling down on the job of getting kids immunized against HPV? At the recent American Public Health Association conference in Chicago, research revealed several interesting points.
For one thing, unlike every other vaccine, more than 60 percent of doctors think of the HPV vaccine as “optional,” especially when it comes to boys. And because doctors don’t rank the HPV as important, it often doesn’t get discussed at all, even during “sick” visits where other vaccines are commonly brought up. Doctors also perceive that a discussion of the HPV vaccine takes longer, so they often leave it to last, which also leads to it getting less attention. And, according to the NPR report, many doctors will discuss the vaccine without actually recommending it, while many others simply forget to mention it at all.
That is why health experts recommend that doctors get in the habit of treating the HPV vaccine as they do all other vaccines. At age 11 or 12, all boys and girls should start the three-dose HPV vaccine. As that is the same age that the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and meningococcal vaccines are administered, the HPV vaccine should be listed right along with those as a routine immunization. Researchers also says it helps when schools require the vaccination on medical forms as they do other vaccines.
Perception v. Reality
So how did this vaccine somehow end up on the D-List in doctors’ minds? The vaccine was given an unfortunate gender/sexual connotation that obscured what the vaccine really accomplished: preventing cancer in women and men. It is interesting, as well as a puzzlement to health experts, that the Hepatitis B vaccine, the only other vaccine that prevents cancer and is administered to infants, has no such connotation, even though Hepatitis B can be spread sexually, just like HPV. And while the vaccine was first approved for girls, it is now recommended for both boys and girls. Still many doctors became wary of discussing the HPV vaccine with parents at all, while others discussed it in terms of perceived sexual risk, another mistake.
That reluctance and mischaracterization can cost lives. Nearly all adults will get HPV at some point in their lives, with one in every four U.S. adults currently infected. And though most of those infections will go away on their own without people even realizing they are infected, a certain number will lead to cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent many of those cancers, including cervical (the most common HPV cancer, with almost all cases being caused by HPV), as well as many vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal and head and neck cancers. The vaccine also prevents genital warts.
As for why the vaccine is administered to preteens, it is done at that time to help ensure the best immunological response (as with other childhood vaccines) and to make sure that the protection is in place well before those teens become sexually active. Concerns that the vaccine would promote sexual behavior have been shown to be completely unfounded, but, sadly only 38 percent of teen girls and only 14 percent of teen boys are getting all three doses of the vaccine, a rate that is far below the 80- and 90-percent rates for other vaccines.
Good News for Doctors
The latest research shows that doctors really can make a difference in increasing HPV vaccination rates. According to Melissa Gilkey, the lead author of the study featured in the NPR story, the single biggest barrier to HPV vaccination is not receiving a recommendation from a health provider. That factor far outweighs parental reluctance, with research showing that parents aren’t as hesitant as doctors about HPV vaccination and just require more information.
All doctors need to do is treat the HPV vaccine as any other and be prepared to answer questions about effectiveness, safety and misconceptions just as they would any other vaccine. In the words of Dr. John Hallberg, an MD and associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, who produced a movie called “Just Another Shot: Reframing the HPV Vaccine” in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “No drama needed.”
For more information on the HPV vaccine, go to http://louisianacancer.org/hpv-vaccine/.
The CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) are housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. For more information on cervical cancer screenings, visit LCP’s Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) at www.lbchp.org.
Everyone knows that women showing their breasts is great for selling beer and garnering positive attention, unless, of course, it happens to be a woman breastfeeding a baby, which weirdly raises the ire of some people.
And almost everyone knows that pink ribbons and NFL players wearing pink gloves during October is a way of getting attention for breast cancer, a disease that one in eight women will get and which kills tens of thousands of U.S. women each year.
But there are still lots of things people don’t necessarily know about breasts and breast cancer that they should:
1. If you catch breast cancer early, in Stage I, there is a 100 percent survival rate and a 93 percent rate at Stage II. Even at Stage 3, there is a 72 percent chance of survival.
2. It is rumored that Ann Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, had a third nipple (which is not why he had her beheaded). People in this century known to have third nipples include Mark Wahlberg, Tilda Swinton, Harry Styles (member of One Direction) and Carrie Underwood (although she had hers surgically removed).
3. Smoking can lead to sagging breasts. Scientists believe that smoking breaks down elastin, which are protein fibers in the skin that provide firmness and elasticity.
4. In 1990, Congress passed a law directing the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) to create the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program which helps low-income, uninsured and underinsured women get breast and cervical cancer screenings. This program is in every state, five U.S. territories and 11 tribal organizations. In Louisiana, it is the Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) at www.lbchp.org. To find those outside Louisiana, go to http://nccd.cdc.gov/dcpc_Programs/default.aspx?NPID=1.
5. Humans are the only primates whose breasts appear full even when not breastfeeding.
6. Though breast cancer is rare among women under 45, it does happen, especially among young African American women, so all women need to be aware of changes in their breasts and be willing to press the point with physicians if they think something is wrong.
7. According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the largest natural breasts belong to Annie Hawkins (also known as Norma Stitz –read that carefully). Her chest measures 70 inches and she wears a U.S. size 521 bra.
8. Men get breast cancer too. Not many, as it is about 100 times less common among men than women, but men need to be aware of any changes in their breasts and see a doctor if there are.
9. Drinking alcohol, being overweight or obese after menopause, and lack of physical activity increase the risk of breast cancer. (And a lot of other illnesses too.)
10. According to an article in Marie Claire, when erect, the average nipple is slightly taller than five stacked quarters.
The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) is a fellow program to The Louisiana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (LBCHP) and SurviveDAT. All are part of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. For more information, go to www.louisianacancer.org.
Women are more likely to die from breast cancer in Louisiana than they are in other states, while young black women in the state suffer disproportionatey from the disease. Two programs, financed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and housed at the LSU School of Public Health, are working to help combat the disease and support the women affected.
No-Cost Mammograms and Pap Tests for Louisiana Women Who Qualify
The Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) performs no-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings (including mammograms and Pap tests) for low-income, uninsured and underinsured women across the state. Louisiana has the second highest breast cancer death rate in the United States, in spite of having a lower average incidence rate, with most of those deaths attributed to a lack of health care access and screenings. There is a program like LBCHP in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories and 11 tribal organizations, as mandated by Congress in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990. In Louisiana, LBCHP currently reaches approximately 14 percent of the eligible population.
SurviveDAT Offers Support for Young Survivors
Breast cancer is somewhat rare under the age of 45, but it does happen and it happens more in the South. Any woman can be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, but for reasons unknown, young black women are more likely to develop the disease at those younger ages, which skews the numbers of people affected in the southern United States.
These young women often face issues that do not affect older women with the disease, including often more aggressive types of the disease, fertility decisions (which should be addressed before starting treatment), genetic factors (affecting male family members too), relationship concerns with partners and children, career implications, financial considerations and more.
To address those and improve the quality of life for these women, SurviveDAT, an in-person and online support group was established in south Louisiana three years ago. It proved so successful, SurviveDAT has now expanded its online advice and support capabilities to north Louisiana and leads the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivor Network, which provides the same types of resources in Mississippi and Alabama.
Going online in the form of websites and social media makes sense in the Gulf States, as much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are rural and many women are unable to travel to in-person support groups. In contrast, they do have digital access, with young women, especially African-Americans, using social media platforms and owning smartphones at high rates. SurviveDAT now enables these women to find everything from health advice and the latest news on breast cancer to where they may find a makeup artist skilled in recreating eyebrows. To learn more, go to www.survivedat.org. To donate, go to https://give.lsuhealthfoundation.org/survivedat.
What Every Woman Needs To Know
Every woman, no matter her age, needs to watch and check for symptoms of breast cancer. These include:
- New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit)
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Skin irritation or dimpling
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or breast
- Pulling in of the nipple area or the breast
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
People should also be aware of risk factors. Being female and older are two ofthe biggest risk factors (women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men), while other risk factors that people cannot change include: genetics, family history, dense breasts, women who started menstruating early or went through menopause late, previous chest radiation, exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and long-term use of hormone replacement therapy.
Risk factors that women can change include: having had no children or a first child after age 30, drinking alcohol, being overweight and lack of physical activity. Recent studies are also linking tobacco use and night shift work to breast cancer.
All major health organizations agree that women 50 to 74 years should have regular mammograms, with no more than two years between them and most recommending yearly screenings. Some, such as the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen, recommend women start at age 40.
The Louisiana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (LBCHP) and SurviveDAT are part of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. For more information, go to www.louisianacancer.org.
NEW ORLEANS – The Smoking Cessation Trust experienced its highest monthly enrollment in June, adding another 2,037 soon-to-be ex-smokers to its free cessation program. To continue reading, please CLICK HERE
Louisiana is $1.6 billion in debt and spends $1.9 billion a year on smoking-related health care costs, yet the state is currently debating even small increases in the tobacco tax. That seems odd when legislators have repeatedly stated they want “revenue neutral” fixes to the debt; raising tobacco taxes is a proven win-win for states; and 70 percent of Louisiana residents favor a tobacco tax, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats.
- Louisiana is $1.6 billion in debt.
- Louisiana spends $1.9 billion per year on smoking-related health care costs. That equals $1,211 in taxes per Louisiana household.
- “Revenue neutral” according to BusinessDictionary.com is defined as “a condition of fiscal policymaking in which any increase or decrease in tax revenues be achieved with a commensurate increase or decrease in tax revenues. For example, a proposal to decrease taxes for one economic group must include a mechanism to increase tax revenues from another source in order to offset the revenue decrease.”
- Louisiana provided $1.8 billion in tax giveaways in 2014 to six industry incentive programs, according to The Advocate, the state’s largest newspaper in an extensive investigative report. (Those included the film, enterprise zones, horizontal drilling, inventory tax rebates, quality jobs and solar energy industries.)
- No commensurate tax increases took place.
- To pay for the tax giveaways, Louisiana has already cut its higher education budget by more than half, according to The Advocate, which resulted in tuition hikes for parents and students.
- Unless action is taken, health care is projected to be cut by $800 million and higher education by $600 million (an approximate 82 percent cut) in the next year, according to nola.com. Due to legal constraints written into the Louisiana state constitution, health care and education budgets are easy to cut; budgets in most other areas are protected.
- A cigarette tax of $1.18 per pack to match the national average will raise $250 million for Louisiana. Louisiana currently has the third lowest cigarette tax in the nation.
- A cigarette tax of $1.18 per pack will save the state $7 million in lung cancer cases; $15.4 million in heart attacks and strokes and $7.4 million in Medicaid.
Although $250 million is still short of the $1.9 billion Louisiana spends on smoking-related health care costs, as well as the $1.8 billion it has spent on industry tax incentives, the math – and Louisiana residents – are making it clear that a tobacco tax is needed and wanted. Those in charge now have a way to help get the state out of debt, while improving the state’s overall health. It all adds up. To learn more, go to www.investcampaign.org.
(New Orleans) Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with melanoma being the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Caused by ultraviolet light (UV), melanoma can be easily prevented by limiting sun exposure, especially among infants and young people, and avoiding indoor tanning.
“Though a relatively small number of people in Louisiana die from melanoma, we want people to know they can avoid these kinds of deaths by protecting themselves from the sun and not using tanning beds,” said Colleen Ryan-Huard, manager of the Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP). “May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month to help stress to people before summer begins to limit their sun exposure. Plus, we really want people to protect their young ones, as well as remind the fishermen, hunters and boaters of Louisiana they are particularly vulnerable. Cover up!”
Skin cancer risk accumulates over time, with each exposure increasing the risk, especially in young people who have more sensitive skin. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says there is convincing evidence linking UV exposure during childhood and youth (up to age 24) to a moderately increased skin cancer risk; and adequate evidence linking UV exposure to a small increase in skin cancer for adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts it more boldly, saying “just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life.”
LCCCP, which works on creating awareness of preventable cancers in the state, says people should take the following precautions:
- Plan outdoor activities before or after midday. If that is not possible, be sure there is shade in the form of trees, umbrellas, tents, etc. when the sun is the strongest.
- Choose the right clothing. When possible, wear long sleeves, pants and skirts. Tightly woven fabrics, darker colors and dry clothes offer more protection too.
- Wear a hat.
- Wear sunglasses. UV rays can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for wraparound glasses which block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
- Apply and reapply sunscreen. Use at least an SPF 15 with UVA and UVB protection every time you go out.
People with fair skin, freckles, light eyes and blonde or red hair are more vulnerable to sun damage, so they should be sure to take precautions. So too should people with a personal or family history of skin cancer and those who have a large number of moles, as well as those with certain autoimmune diseases, an organ transplant and/or taking medications that lower the immune system or make the skin more sensitive to light.
LCCCP also wants people to be aware of the signs of skin cancer, with the most common being a change in the skin, including things such as a sore that doesn’t heal, a growth or a change in an existing mole.
For melanoma specifically, remember ABCDE:
- A - Asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape?
- B - Border. Is the border irregular/jagged?
- C - Color. Is the color uneven?
- D - Diameter. Is the mole or spot bigger than the size of a pea?
- E - Evolving. Has the spot changed recently (weeks/months)?
Skin cancer will look different on different people, so it is important to be aware of what is normal for you. Talk to your doctor if you notice a new growth or sore, any of the ABCDEs of melanoma or any changes in your skin.
To learn more about skin cancer, go to http://louisianacancer.org/skin-cancer.
The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) is part of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. For more information, go to www.louisianacancer.org.