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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.” 

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. 

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.

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.

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 or call 1-888-599-1073. To donate, go to

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 To donate, go to

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


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


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

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

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 (

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

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


AuthorLaura Ricks

More Pap Tests and HPV Vaccines Would Save Lives

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states quite clearly “No woman should ever die from cervical cancer.” It is a disease that can be prevented through vaccination or detected early and cured through regular Pap testing. Yet cervical cancer still kills a few thousand U.S. women each year.

Even worse news is that Louisiana accounts for a large number of those deaths, with the state having the fourth highest cervical cancer mortality rate in the nation.

These are statistics that can and must be changed. According to the Louisiana Tumor Registry (LTR), Pap tests have radically reduced nationwide cervical cancer deaths to less than a third of the rate that women died of the disease in 1969, yet there are still women who do not get regular screenings. The CDC says that in 2012, 8 million women had not been screened in the last five years – in spite of the fact that seven out of 10 of those had a regular doctor and health insurance. 

LBCHP Eligibility, Screening Recommendations

The hope is that those numbers will start to change since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that cervical cancer Pap test screenings be covered by all insurance plans, and as word gets out that low-income, uninsured and underinsured women are eligible for federal testing programs. In this state, the CDC-funded Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) ( provides cervical cancer screenings for women between 21-64 years old and whose household incomes are at or below 200 percent of the 2014 Federal Poverty Level. (That translates into an annual income of under $23,340 for a single person, for example, or $47,700 for a family of four, etc.)

Women should also know that screening interval recommendations have changed and become less burdensome. Health organizations, ranging from the American Cancer Society to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, recommend that average-risk women be screened every three years - not annually, as in the past.

Black, Vietnamese & Hispanic Women at Higher Risk

According to the LTR, black women in Louisiana have both higher cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates than black women nationwide. The CDC says that Hispanic women in the U.S. experience the highest cervical cancer incidence rates of any racial/ethnic group anywhere in the country. And, overall the CDC says, black, Hispanic and Vietnamese women have cervical cancer mortality rates above the national average. These groups have traditionally have had less access to Pap tests, but with the advent of ACA, knowledge about programs such as LBCHP, and the longer recommended times between screenings, these groups can reduce their death rates. 

A Vaccine That Prevents Cancer

One of only two vaccines that help prevent cancer, the HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus, which is so common that the CDC says that nearly all men and women will get it at some point in their lives, and estimates that approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected. HPV causes a number of cancers (99 percent of all cervical cancers), as well as genital warts in both men and women, which the vaccine can prevent. Therefore, the CDC advises that all children get the three-dose series over six months, starting at age 11 or 12, so that the vaccine generates its best immune response, which lessens as people age, and to be sure that the series is administered long before any exposure to the virus.

And though age 11 or 12 is optimum, the CDC says young men should still get vaccinated through age 21 (through age 26, if gay, bisexual or if their immune system is compromised) and young women through age 26. 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 ( Parents, as well as health care providers, whom the CDC says are not doing enough to get the word out about the HPV vaccine, are encouraged take advantage of one of the two HPV vaccines, which the CDC notes are “Safe, effective and grossly underutilized.”

Since their introductions in 2006, Cervarix and Gardasil (Gardasil is for both boys and girls and also protects against genital warts) have been shown to reduce U.S. HPV infections 56 percent, in spite of low HPV vaccination rates, while in Australia, where the vaccine uptake is high, precancers of the cervix and genital warts have been dramatically reduced.

And just a few days ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil 9, which protects against nine types of HPV, five more than the previous version of Gardasil. It is approved for use in females age nine through 26 and males age nine through 15.

The Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) (, which works on creating awareness about cancers that can be prevented or mitigated with screenings and lifestyle choices, is one of the CDC-funded Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs (LCP) housed at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health. Sister programs include the Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) and the Louisiana Tumor Registry (LTR). For more information, go to


AuthorLaura Ricks

Dr. Williams and Dr. Johnson from SoPH spoke and were recognized by the New Orleans City Council for Breast Cancer Awareness.


  Medical professionals and advocates supporting Breast Cancer Awareness

Medical professionals and advocates supporting Breast Cancer Awareness


AuthorTruc Le


Exceptional work by program results in maximum available grant 

The Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP), which performs breast and cervical cancer screenings (including mammograms and Pap tests) at no cost to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women across the state, was recently awarded the maximum amount for 2014-2015. LBCHP’s exceptional performance in providing these screenings was one reason that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) not only continued the grant for the program, which has been in existence since 2002, but increased it.

“The CDC has always thought LBCHP has done a great job,” said LBCHP Director Nannozi Ssenkoloto. “And this year, the CDC felt they had additional money to give.”

That added budget is a boon to the state, as Louisiana ranks second highest in breast cancer and fourth in cervical cancer death rates. Those figures are even starker when one considers that Louisiana women have a lower incidence or occurrence of breast cancer in the first place. People not getting screened - or being unable to afford screenings - is one reason Louisiana’s death rates are so high. 

“This additional money will allow LBCHP to screen more women than we ever have before. We’d like to reach as many as 14,000 women this year or approximately 14 percent of the eligible population,” said Ssenkoloto.

LBCHP eligibility is based on age, income and insurance status. Women whose household incomes who are at or below 200 percent of the 2014 Federal Poverty Level are eligible, which translates into an annual income of, for example, under $23,340 for a single person, $47,700 for a family of four, etc. Cervical cancer screenings are performed for women between the ages of 21 and 64, while mammography screenings are done for women between the ages of 50 and 64. In addition, women in their 40s can qualify for a clinical breast exam, while women of any age who exhibit symptoms or have physical findings that suggest breast cancer can qualify for LBCHP.

LBCHP furnishes its breast and cervical cancer screenings through the following providers around the state:

New Orleans Area:

  •      Interim LSU Hospital
  •      St. Thomas Community Health Center
  •      NOELA Community Health Center.

Baton Rouge Area:

  •      Woman’s Hospital
  •      Mobile mammography services also available

Houma/Thibodaux Area:

  •      Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center

Lafayette Area:

  •      University Hospital & Clinics
  •      Louisiana Oncology Associates

Southwest Louisiana & Central Louisiana Areas:

  •      LBCHP is looking for providers in the Lake Charles and Alexandria areas now. To find the current closest screening locations, go to or call 1-888-599-1073.

Northwest Louisiana/Shreveport Area:

  •      Partners in Wellness Feist-Weiller Cancer Center
  •      Mobile mammography services also available

Northeast Louisiana/Monroe Area:

  •      University Health Conway

Florida Parishes/Hammond Area:

  •      Lallie Kemp Medical Center

LBCHP does not provide treatment services, but once a woman is diagnosed, its patient navigation team can help enroll the patient in Medicaid or in a program under the Affordable Care Act.

For more information on LBCHP, go to or call 888-599-1073. If you wish to help Louisiana women diagnosed with breast cancer overcome one of their biggest obstacles to care: transportation, please make a tax-deductible gift to LBCHP at


AuthorLaura Ricks