The Louisiana Department of Health is urging Louisianans to get screened for colorectal cancer, a highly preventable cancer, especially when screened and diagnosed early, that has increased incidence and mortality rates in Louisiana compared to the rest of the nation.
The goal is to raise screening rates by 2 percentage points in 2022 as part of the the Department's FY 2022 Business Plan, which has set prevention benchmarks in several areas.
LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney Phillips identified colorectal cancer as a top priority because it is highly preventable when caught early, and because Louisiana screening rates lag behind the rest of the country.
"Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable, treatable and survivable cancer, especially when screened and diagnosed early; yet, it is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women in the United States. One of the reasons colorectal cancer has such a high mortality rate is that an estimated 40% of all at-risk individuals nationwide have never been screened. In the Louisiana Medicaid program, just 37% of recipients ages 50 to 75 have been screened. Early screenings save lives. This is why we at LDH have set a goal of increasing screenings by 2 percentage points in 2022, through education and outreach as well as key partnerships to make screenings more accessible," Dr. Phillips said. "We know various misconceptions about colorectal cancer act as barriers for some people to take action. We want Louisianans to know when they should be screened, how often, and what types of screenings are available — and we want all residents ages 45 through 75 to make a plan today to get screened." 
LDH and partners are spending this Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month raising awareness of the often-stigmatized cancer and making getting screened more accessible. The partnership with Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center will leverage healthcare provider expertise, educational outreach and screening events in Louisiana communities. Taking Aim at Cancer in Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge General and Ochsner Health will work with LDH to amplify outreach efforts.
Click here for details on community screenings across the state that LDH and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center are partnering on in March.
Increasing cancer screenings, including for colorectal cancer, is a key part of Healthy State by 2030, an initiative of Ochsner Health and other partners to lift Louisiana off the bottom of the health rankings by increasing community access to healthcare and other services.
In Louisiana, there are 44.9 colorectal cancer cases per 100,000 residents; in the U.S. that number is 38.1. Louisiana has the 4th highest colorectal cancer mortality rate in the United States.
There are also significant racial disparities. Black Louisianans have a rate of 52.6 cases per 100,000 while white residents have 42.4 cases per 100,000. Black Louisianans are also more likely to die of colorectal cancer than white residents. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among Black residents in 2014-18 was 21 deaths per 100,000 compared to 14.8 per 100,000 among white residents.
"Through LDH’s partnership and generous community supporters, we are able to meet people where they live, work, worship and play, providing free prevention, education and early detection services," said Renea Duffin, vice president of cancer support and outreach at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. "There are many barriers to people receiving necessary cancer screenings, especially for the underserved. It is our priority to collaborate with state agencies, community groups and others to ensure individuals receive colorectal and other life-saving cancer screenings at the appropriate time."
Screenings should happen for anyone between the ages of 45 and 75. A colonoscopy is not the only type of screening for colorectal cancer. There are several types, including tests that can be taken in the privacy of one's home. A stool-based test can be obtained at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center's Prevention On The Go screening events or through a medical provider. Cologuard® tests can be obtained through a telemedicine provider online here.
To learn more about colorectal cancer, check out our fact sheet
Subject matter experts are available for interviews.