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.”