By Jasmine Meyer

Louisiana Breast & Cervical Health Program Manager

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when the Louisiana Breast & Cervical Health Program (LBHCP) reminds all women they should be getting regular mammograms. And remember if you need help getting one – whether it’s affording the overall screening, meeting a co-pay, not having transportation –whatever! We can help

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

By Laura Ricks

Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs Communications Manager

Over the last few years, we’ve made huge jumps in fighting breast cancer. We are catching breast cancer earlier, so more and more women across the country, are surviving and living full lives. So why are so many Louisiana women dying of breast cancer? And why are they also dying of cervical cancer, which is entirely preventable?

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

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. 

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

By Jasmine Meyer, MPH

LCP Program Manager

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.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

By Dr. Donna Williams, DrPH

Director, Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs

 

Human papillomavirus. It’s a mouthful. HPV for short. But what is it? It is a very, very common virus of which there are more than 100 different types. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that at any one time, 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and about 14 million are newly infected each year.  In fact, HPV is so common that just about everyone will be infected at some point in their lives.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

By Devin Moseley

Young Breast Cancer Survivor

 

In the 1950s, my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer when my mom was 16. Knowing this disease was in my lineage made me hyper aware of screening and prevention options, as I always had a sense that it wasn’t “if,” but rather “when” I would be diagnosed myself.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

In July 2016, at the ripe old age of 27, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I first noticed a lump in my breast in early June while I was performing a breast self-examination. Initially, I thought it may have been hormonal changes due to my menstrual cycle, but when the lump did not shrink/go away by the beginning of July, I had it examined. At first, my gynecologist thought the lump was a cyst, but he sent me to get a mammogram anyway because of my family history. Within five days of my first visit, and after a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

LBCHP has had a growth spurt! Since Medicaid Expansion, we have developed new eligibility criteria to cover more women, and increased our reach in the state to providers in Alexandria, Lake Charles and Zachary. We know Louisiana has high death rates from both breast and cervical cancer, in part due to lack of screening and access to healthcare. It is our hope that these new improvements will help us reach more women who need life-saving cancer screenings across the state.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

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.” 

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions African Americans have made to our country. But even as we celebrate, we must remember that African Americans suffer the highest cancer mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in the US. Here in Louisiana, white and black women are diagnosed with breast cancer at equal rates, but black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer before age 45, and are more likely to die from the disease. These disparities have been linked to a host of factors, including genetics and the fact that black women’s breast cancer is often more advanced when it is first diagnosed. 

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

Confused about your well-woman visit? You’re not alone. Changing guidelines and recommendations have led to some confusion on when to have your visit, who should have a well-woman visit, and what a well-woman visit should include.

A well-woman visit or gynecological exam includes a pelvic exam, which is a physical examination, a Pap test (Pap smear). It may also include an HPV test if you are 30 years old or older.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

December is a time of year that we often worry about material things, like buying gifts, and get caught up on the “wants” instead of the “needs.” This holiday season, we ask that you consider donating life-saving cancer screenings to women across Louisiana who urgently need them.

Posted
AuthorJoseph Gautier

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.

To find the nearest LBCHP medical provider or to learn more, go www.lbchp.org or call 1-888-599-1073. To donate, go to https://give.lsuhealthfoundation.org/LBCHP.

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.

Get Screened

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.

 

Posted
AuthorLaura Ricks

Why is Louisiana's breast cancer death rate so much higher than the rest of America? Why is the colon cancer rate in Acadiana way above the national average?  And what can be done to identify cancer earlier and provide the treatment patients need to defeat this disease? Louisiana Public Square brings together residents living with cancer and experts on the front lines of diagnosis, treatment and research to explore "Cancer in Louisiana." To view video clips, please CLICK HERE

 

Posted
AuthorTruc Le

Cancer. It’s a word people fear and a diagnosis that often inspires fatalism. However, as World Cancer Day raises awareness about the disease on Wed., Feb. 4, the Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) wants people to know there are at least six cancers they can easily avoid or catch early enough to beat.

1.    Lung. Don’t smoke. Lung cancer is the most fatal cancer in the world and tobacco accounts for 90 percent of those deaths. That figure includes deaths from cigarettes, cigars and secondhand smoke, which is why businesses, municipalities and more are banning smoking. Even New Orleans, a city with a reputation for vice, has become the first city in the tobacco-friendly South to pass a smoking ban. The scientific evidence presented by LCCCP and other health organizations there, plus compelling testimony from musicians, waiters and others, made a strong case for the ban, even defeating industry attempts to exempt bars and casinos.

 As for electronic cigarettes or e-cigs, the long-term studies needed to prove they are safe or help people quit smoking tobacco do not yet exist. And though some say they may be less toxic for current smokers, those studies also all note that e-cigs still have toxicants, are not carcinogenic-free and contain nicotine, which is addictive. The concentrated liquid nicotine refills used for e-cigs are also toxic, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noting a dramatic increase in calls to poison control centers from people who have ingested, inhaled or absorbed refills. These refills are marketed with attractive flavors, colors and scents that are particularly appealing to children, resulting in 51 percent of poisoning calls involving children five and under.

In addition, a study done by researchers at the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and Georgia State University also found during 2011-2013, that the number of youth who had never smoked a cigarette, but had used e-cigs had tripled, while never-smokers who had used e-cigs were nearly twice as likely to intend smoking conventional cigarettes than never-smokers who had never used e-cigs. And, in a study just released in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found high levels of formaldehyde in e-cig aerosols, which they estimate could increase the risk of cancer five to 15 times higher than the risk of long-term smoking.  

2.    Colon. Prevent it by getting screened once you turn 50. The second leading cancer killer in the United States is colorectal. Surprised? More shocking is that it is a very preventable cancer. And now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires coverage for preventive screenings, including colonoscopies, there is no reason for such deaths.

Health experts recommend everyone 50 and over be screened in order to find precancerous polyps, which can be easily removed or so that the cancer can be caught early, treated and cured. That is why the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable has adopted as its slogan “80% by 2018” with the goal being to get that percentage of people 50 and over screened by that year. LCCCP is following that example and working to help form a Louisiana Colorectal Cancer Roundtable to improve statistics in the state, which has the fifth highest colorectal cancer death rate in the U.S. and even higher rates among its black male and Cajun populations.

The most well-known screening test, colonoscopy, is often called the “gold standard,” but public health experts also note “The best test is the one you’re going to get.” Other medical facility tests include fecal or flexible sigmoidoscopy; a double-contrast barium enema; or a CT colonography. At-home stool tests include the FOBT, FIT or Cologuard. Not all colon screening tests have been approved by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, so be aware insurance plans may not cover them. If anything unusual is found, a follow-up colonoscopy will likely be required.

Controllable risk factors include a diet high in red or processed meats, lack of physical activity, obesity and the use of tobacco and alcohol. Uncontrollable risk factors include family history of the disease, genetic syndromes (FAP or Lynch syndrome) and related diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

3. Breast. Prevent it by getting screened on a regular basis. Pink ribbons notwithstanding, breast cancer still kills a lot of people (not all of whom are women.) It is the third highest cancer killer across the nation and the most common cause of cancer in women. But like lung and colon cancer, those statistics needn’t be that high.

Regular mammograms starting at 50 are recommended by all the major health organizations, with no more than two years between screenings and most recommending annually. And though some disagree as to whether women should start screening at 40, all agree women need to consider it at that age, with the American Cancer Society, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and Susan G. Komen recommending women start then, while others such as the CDC and the American Medical Association recommending women 40 to 49 discuss the issue with their doctor.

Lifestyle factors that increase breast cancer risk include childless women or those who had their first after 30, drinking alcohol, being overweight and being inactive.

Women should know that ACA now requires coverage of mammograms and, if they still lack insurance and meet Federal Poverty Guidelines, they can get screened through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), which exists in every state, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories and in 11 American Indian/Alaska Native tribal organizations.

The Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program, is the NBCCEDP program in the state and a sister program to the LCCCP. It offers no-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings and can be reached at 888-599-1073 or at www.lbchp.org.

4. Cervical. Prevent it by having a Pap test on a regular basis and getting the HPV vaccine. The CDC unequivocally states “No woman should ever die from cervical cancer.” Regular Pap tests can detect the cancer early and are covered under ACA. And like breast cancer, cervical cancer screenings are available through the NBCCEDP and through the LBCHP in Louisiana at 888-599-1073 or www.lbchp.org.

Almost every adult in the U.S. will get the human papillomavirus at some point, with the CDC estimating 79 million American are currently infected. Most of the time, it does no harm, but it can cause genital warts and a number of cancers in both men and women, including 99 percent of cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine, one of only two existing cancer vaccines, can prevent all of those diseases and is administered to boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12, when it can generate its best immune response for the future and be administered long before any exposure to the virus.

Older people, including men up to age 21 (or 26, if gay, bisexual or have compromised immune system) and women up to age 26 are also eligible. Most private health insurance plans now cover the HPV vaccine at no out-of-pocket cost because of ACA, while low-income children may be eligible for it through the federal Vaccines for Children Program (www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/index.html).

5. Prostate. Talk to your doctor about screening. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and there are screenings to detect it. However, treatment can sometimes have more serious consequences (bowel and urination issues, impotence) than the disease, which grows slowly and often does no harm. Therefore, health experts now recommend men discuss their situation and risk factors with their doctors starting at 50, and black men, because they are impacted more by the disease, at age 45.

6. Skin. Protect yourself from the sun and don’t tan, indoor or out. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, especially among white men. And the deadliest kind is melanoma, which is caused by sun exposure. So cover up!

For more information, go to www.lcccp.org.

The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) is one 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.

 

Posted
AuthorLaura Ricks