The Louisiana Department of Health is launching a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month campaign aimed at increasing screenings throughout the year and connecting Louisianans with prevention resources. Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is held nationally each March.
LDH has identified colorectal cancer as a continued focus area in the Department's FY2023 Business Plan because Louisiana has above-average rates of incidence and mortality, as well as below-average screening rates. There are also significantly higher rates of colorectal cancer cases among Black Louisianans, with 52.9 cases per 100,000 compared to 42.4 cases per 100,000 for white residents. Mortality rates are higher as well, with 20.8 deaths among Black residents per 100,000 compared to 14.2 per 100,000 among white residents.
The Department's work to promote colorectal cancer screenings last year included partnering with Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center to hold 67 community-based screenings throughout Louisiana, resulting in 797 individuals screened. This year, the Department is expanding its partnerships to include Ochsner Health Cancer Institute and Woman's Hospital. These partnerships will focus on increasing screenings in the three parishes with the lowest screening rates — Grant, St. Tammany and Washington parishes — with a goal of reducing racial and rural disparities.
"We continue to deepen our work to increase colorectal cancer awareness and screenings because we know that doing so has the potential to save lives," said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips. "I am excited that we have the opportunity to build on last year's progress increasing screening rates with additional provider partnerships. Our focus on parishes with low screening rates and reducing racial and rural disparities will allow us to better meet people where they are, and, ultimately, improve health outcomes."
In addition to increasing community-based screening opportunities, LDH is distributing a communications toolkit to stakeholders, managed care organizations, providers and community partners to help the Department increase awareness of colorectal cancer and the importance of screening.
Here are a few key facts about colorectal cancer:
  • Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable, treatable cancer, especially when diagnosed early; yet it is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women in the United States. 
  • Regular routine screening should happen for anyone beginning at age 45, according to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.
  • People at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often and/or get specific tests. This includes people with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps (see Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors).
  • A colonoscopy is not the only type of screening for colorectal cancer. There are highly sensitive stool-based tests that can be taken yearly at home. There is also a stool DNA test that can be performed every three years, also in the privacy of your home.
LDH regional medical directors throughout the state are available for interviews during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and you can find more about screenings in your region here.