Louisiana has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the nation, with annual statistics having a numeric equivalent of about 160 people dying from cancer in the state every week (American Cancer Society). Many studies involving the Louisiana tumor registry find that Louisiana does not have a higher incident of most cancers, instead, we have higher death rates. Reasons for this staggering loss of human life include: late or incurable stage diagnosis of the disease and patients being forced to travel long distances for treatment at a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center. Many patients currently have to travel at least 350 miles to the nearest NCI-designated cancer center – either M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas or the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham.
A functioning NCI-designated cancer center in Louisiana would play a large role in the significant reduction of deaths from cancer as well the loss-of-productivity economic impact. Our new 10-story, $102 million state-of-the-art research facility located in New Orleans is part of the LCRC plan to compete for NCI designation. The LCRC building represents a testament to the commitment of the State of Louisiana toward eradicating cancer among its citizens. The State also recognizes this structure and the work conducted under the LCRC umbrella as the beginning of what will be a progressive biomedical corridor emanating from New Orleans and throughout the greater region.
LCRC is a leader for cancer prevention and control in Louisiana. Cancer experts agree that the highest impact in eliminating cancer comes from the prevention of cancer or the early detection and treatment of the disease. This is achieved through regular examination by trained personnel and through the testing of samples of blood, urine or other biologic specimens. Members of the LCRC have led the way for developing regional and statewide cancer screening programs in Louisiana.
The statewide screening programs for breast, cervical and colon cancer, led by LCRC researcher Donna Williams, M.S., M.P.H., from the School of Public Health at LSU, screen patients at clinics throughout the state. LCRC programs provide screening and education on the prevention and early diagnosis of melanoma (the most aggressive form of skin cancer) and free PSA (prostate specific antigen) screening for prostate cancer to more than 170 men in New Orleans.
Our investigators have helped re-establish screening facilities in the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans (MCLNO). Through a federal grant obtained by LCRC researchers at LSU, we were able to purchase over $1 million in upgraded digital mammography, ultrasound, and biopsy equipment, as well as gastro and colonoscopes for the new screening clinics at the MCLNO, where our physicians are again evaluating patients.
Although screening efforts are important in reducing the mortality of cancer, it is far superior to prevent the onset of cancer. The Tobacco-Free Living Program is a major LCRC endeavor. Through it, legislators, medical personnel and the public at-large have been educated on the ill effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. This has resulted in the passage of strong legislation that will in the long-run decrease the effects of smoking in our population. In addition, LCRC supported investigators and staff continue to aid in efforts to develop new and better anti-smoking campaigns as well as implement free antismoking workshops for smokers.
Louisiana Cancer Facts:
(source: American Cancer Society, Facts about Cancer 2011)