Cancer prevention plan unveiled

Capitol news bureau

Officials Create Cancer Patrol in Louisiana

A statewide cancer control partnership on Friday unveiled a multipronged prevention and early detection plan aimed at reducing Louisiana's cancer death rate, now third highest in the nation.

"To concentrate on prevention and treatment just makes common sense," said Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who pledged her support. "Having a comprehensive plan ... will make a tremendous difference in the health of our state."

Blanco noted a $350,000 increase in funding for breast and cervical cancer screening for poor women as one contribution her administration has made to the effort.

Blanco and other speakers at a Louisiana Cancer Control Partnership meeting on the LSU campus said education and access to cancer screening are key to cutting one of the leading causes of death in Louisiana men and women.

The partnership of 64 organizations and 180 individuals developed the statewide plan since its formation in December 2002.

Dr. Terry Fontham, dean of the LSU School of Public Health, said the plan provides:

A statewide structure for increasing access for low-income and underserved cancer patients;
An education program to increase public awareness and knowledge regarding cancer;
Conduct programs for health care providers to increase their ability to assist their patients in making informed decisions regarding cancer screening and treatment;
A push for increased state funding for early detection and screening programs.

Fontham said the new cervical and breast cancer screening funding will allow for a five-fold increase in eligible women participating. But still only about 15 percent of those needing the services will get coverage, she said.

Part of the program will install an individual in each of the state's nine health-care regions to help the poor and uninsured locate where services are available, said Fontham.

"It will help improve the ability to get people in the system" in a type of "seamless referral system," she said.

State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry said education about making healthy life choices must start early in a child's life. "What we eat, what we drink, whether we choose to smoke," said Guidry.

Guidry said there's another factor. "If we want to get rid of disparities in Louisiana, we have to get rid of poverty," he said.

The number of cancer cases is not much different here than in other states, but the death rate is far higher -- an average 9,400 deaths annually.

Of men with cancer, prostate cancer claims the life of 28 percent -- more than any other form of the disease; and in women breast cancer accounts for 30 percent of cancer deaths, Fontham said.


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