Friday, February 1, 2019

Cancer screenings save lives

Every February is recognized in the United States as National Cancer Prevention Month. Annually, Feb. 4 is set aside as World Cancer Day to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection and treatment.

Most people are familiar with the term “cancer” but may not fully recognize what that word means. It’s a general term for a disease in which abnormal cells in the body divide uncontrollably and invade other tissues. Cancer cells can occur in any organ and any cell type within the body, spreading throughout the body through the blood and lymph systems. More than 100 kinds of cancer have been identified. Many cancers form solid tumors, or masses of tissue, though blood cancers such as leukemia generally don’t form solid tumors.

With so many different kinds of cancers, the causes of such diseases can be widespread and many are still poorly understood. Some identifiable causes of cancer include a family history of cancer; repeated long-term contact with carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in the environment, such as tobacco and exposure to the sun; and personal habits and lifestyle, including obesity.

Cancer in Louisiana

Louisiana ranked 44th in the nation for cancer deaths in the most recent America’s Health Rankings report. The cancers with the highest incidence rate in Louisiana from 2010 to 2014 were prostate, female breast, and lung and bronchus, according to the Louisiana Tumor Registry. Lung and bronchus cancers had the highest number of deaths.

The Louisiana Tumor Registry collects information about all cancers that are diagnosed and/or treated in Louisiana. By law, this information is provided to the registry from health care facilities in the state.

The Louisiana Department of Health recently launched a program, Taking Aim at Cancer, to work toward improving cancer outcomes in the state by increasing access to care, improving the quality of care and reducing the cost of care.

The Louisiana Department of Health also provides an online Health Data Portal containing information on cancer cases in the state. Anyone who is interested in viewing this information can see the average annual incidence rates and annual counts of new cases for all age groups and, if noted, childhood groups for the following types of cancer:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (includes childhood)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (includes childhood)
  • Bladder
  • Brain and central nervous system (includes childhood)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • Colorectal
  • Esophageal
  • Female breast
  • Kidney
  • Laryngeal
  • Leukemia (includes childhood)
  • Liver and intrahepatic bile duct
  • Lung
  • Male breast
  • Melanoma of the skin
  • Mesothelioma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Oral cavity and pharynx
  • Pancreatic
  • Thyroid

Get screened

According to the National Cancer Institute, screening for cancer is important to surviving cancer. Screening can help doctors find and treat several types of cancer early, before they cause symptoms. Early detection is important because when abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread and be harder to treat.

Talk to your doctor about your options for cancer screenings. Common cancer screenings include breast, colorectal, oral, prostate and skin cancers. Some screenings are non-invasive, like a mammogram to detect breast cancer, while others may be more uncomfortable, such as a colonoscopy for colorectal cancer.

Don’t let embarrassment or fear prevent you from getting a screening. A few moments’ discomfort may be the key to saving your life.

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