OUR OPINION: Where's the good news?

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

It distresses us as much as anyone when Louisiana falls to the bottom of somebody’s something or other list.

Some rankings should be taken more seriously than others. Snowballs taste better in Louisiana than anywhere else. But, alas, snowball points do not offset having the highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

Nor does it help us forget Louisiana’s notoriously high cancer rates.

The LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public HealthTumor Registry reported yesterday that Louisiana’s cancer incidence and mortality profile is not improving as rapidly as the rest of the nation.

For the first time ever, Louisianans suffer from cancer more often and die from the disease more often than the average rates in America.

Basically, we’re going backward in the war against cancer while the rest of the nation moves forward.

According to the report, most race and sex groups in Louisiana traditionally experience rates for all cancers combined that were similar or lower than the national rate. Recently, in the center’s

Cancer in Louisiana 2001-05 report, combined cancer rates for Louisiana men have remained nearly level and are now significantly higher than national rates that have been declining.

High rates of lung cancer and colorectum cancer account for most of the difference, the study authors say.

They say, and you’ve already heard this before, these two cancers can often be prevented by avoiding tobacco products, practicing a daily physical regimen, reducing red meat in the diet and eating more fruits and vegetables.

For Louisiana women, combined cancer rates continue to rise while national rates decline.

Louisiana white women had significantly lower combined cancer rates than the national average. These rates are now above the national average. And now, black women have significantly higher breast cancer rates than the national average.

According to the study, Louisiana also has a high rate for many tobacco-related cancers, including kidney, oral cavity, cervix, pancreas, larynx, stomach, colorectum and lung.

People in Louisiana tend to be diagnosed with advanced and more life threatening diseases than people in the rest of the nation. There are numerous contributors to this unfortunate problem, including the high rate of uninsured people and lack of information about screening for various forms of cancer.

Increased use of screening technology, according to the center study, would help reduce colorectal and cervical cancer incidence and mortality and breast cancer mortality.

In Ascension Parish, the  River Region Cancer Screening and Early Detection Center in Sorrento, brought to the parish through the efforts of Louis Lambert, offers breast cancer education and free screening services, including mammograms and prostrate cancer screening.

Clinical Associate Karen Banks said the River Region center encourages appointments for its free services, and she notes center volume has grown because of the great need in the current economy.

“A lot of people say they are glad they found us because they have lost jobs or had insurance discontinued,” Banks said. “Still, a lot of people don’t know about us.”

The River Region Cancer Screening and Early Detection Center is open Monday through Thursday and may be reached at 225-675-6896.

The center is a positive note in Louisiana’s poor showing in the fight against cancer, and it is readily available for area residents to use to their advantage.

That sounds like good news to us.