By Dr. Donna Williams, DrPH
Director, Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs
Dramatic, moody, self-absorbed, rebellious. These are all words I’ve used to describe my teenager. I have to admit that the teenage years have been a roller coaster. My cute little snuggle bunny who used to put his head on my shoulder while I read him a bedtime story, now communicates with grunts and eye rolls. I tell myself it’s all part of growing up.
Then the bomb is dropped - a parent diagnosed with metastatic cancer.
Regional and national colorectal cancer (CRC) champions will convene at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, June 27-29, for the Southeastern Colorectal Consortium. The burden of CRC is felt strongly in the South, but through collaboration with neighboring states, the region can overcome barriers to screenings that has proven to save lives. The goal is to achieve an 80% screening rate for the eligible population, an objective established by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. The Consortium will promote the strong work already being done across all 12 southern states (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, TX, AL, AR, MS, LA, TN, KT, WV) and Puerto Rico.
Last year during a routine check-up, my new doctor found a lump in my right breast and referred me to the mammography department of her clinic for follow-up diagnostic testing. It took me weeks of persistent calls to book my appointment, and when I showed up I was sent home without a mammogram because the referral wasn’t logged in their electronic records. I played phone tag with my doctor for another few weeks before the referral was recorded, and I had to begin the process of booking a mammogram all over again. The results were benign, but I was instructed to come back in six months to check on the lump.
Cancer screening saves lives. And people are more likely to get screened if their doctor recommends it. That’s why Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana and The Louisiana Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (LCCRT) recently recognized 22 Quality Blue Primary Care primary care doctors who screened 80% or more of their eligible patients for colorectal cancer between September 1, 2016 and September 1, 2017.
I recently had a bad dream where I was being chased by some obviously bad dudes and woke up in a cold sweat right before they were going to shoot me.
And though I know I’m much more likely to be shot in the United States than just about everywhere else in the world (a discussion for another time and place), less than 4% of U.S. deaths are caused by firearms. Overwhelmingly what kills us – and what we really need to be afraid of – is ourselves.
Public safety is the number one function of government. Almost everyone would agree with that statement. Whether it’s enforcing building codes so the ceiling doesn’t come falling down on us or food safety laws that mean we don’t eat rotten meat, most people agree these are important protections. There is, however, a glaring public safety gap in Louisiana and it’s centered on clean indoor air - specifically smoking indoors. In the state law that made office buildings and restaurants smoke-free, there is a loophole that allows bars and casinos to still let toxic, cancer-causing chemicals be released in the air that people breathe.
The State Cancer Plan is published by The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, which is part of the Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs, and which are housed at the LSU School of Public Health.
New Orleans, LA – LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health’s Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan 2017-2021 provides a roadmap to reduce cancer deaths in Louisiana over the next five years. The plan, created by LSU Health New Orleans’ Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program and its partner organizations, is available at http://louisianacancer.org/publications/.
Normally when I leave the house, I do a quick check to make sure I have everything I need. “Wallet, keys, phone” is my routine mantra as I head for the door. But now that we are in the thick of festival season, I’m adding a few things to that list: hat, sunglasses and sunscreen!
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.”