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.

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AuthorJoseph Gautier