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Thursday, October 29, 2020

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The Rapides Foundation offers free cancer screenings

The Rapides Foundation’s new Cancer Screening Project is bringing free cancer screenings to eligible Central Louisiana residents by way of a mobile unit.

The unit is a partnership between the Foundation and the Partners in Wellness Program at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU-Shreveport and offers free clinical breast exams, mammograms, Pap tests, pelvic exams and colorectal cancer screenings to qualified individuals. In its first month, the unit has made four stops in Natchitoches. Thirty-six women received free cancer checkups.

The Cancer Screening Project is administered through the Foundation’s Cenla Medication Access Program, which since 2001 has provided free medications to thousands of residents who are unable to afford them. Now, Central Louisiana individuals who meet specific income and insurance qualifications may be eligible for checkups that detect breast, cervical and colon cancers. Central Louisiana is below the national average when it comes to screening for these three types of cancer.

The Cancer Screening Project is bringing the screenings to rural areas via the mobile screening unit to help make it as easy as possible for qualified Cenla residents.

“Some people can’t afford the cost of regular cancer checkups, much less afford the time and effort it takes to drive to bigger cities where the checkups are available. We hope to make it easier for them to get these potentially life-saving tests,” said Joe Rosier, president and CEO of The Rapides Foundation.

The Cancer Screening Project focuses on increasing access and visits to screening facilities, as well as ensuring follow-up visits, and being able to act upon whatever results stem from those visits.

Dr. Harold Wold, an Alexandria oncologist and Foundation board member, said these efforts are critical to increase awareness about the importance of regular screenings. “This is great because it is so important to educate people that these tests are not dangerous, not painful,” he said.

Women should begin getting routine clinical breast examinations by their doctors in their 20s or 30s. Women without a family history of breast cancer should begin receiving mammograms at age 40, and make the habit a yearly one. For cervical cancer, Pap tests should begin either at age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active.

Colorectal cancer screenings should begin at age 50 for men and women. If there is a family history of the disease, start screenings at age 45.

As with many things medical, some people do not seek regular screenings for varying reasons. More often than not, Wold said, the hang-ups are mental.

“The thing I hear a lot is, ‘If I don’t know about it, I don’t have to worry about it,”’ Wold said. “But just because you’re not worried about it, doesn’t mean you can’t get cancer. Others say, ‘If it’s my time, it’s my time. I won’t do anything about it.’ That’s nonsense because they clearly want to do something once they’re actually faced with the real problem.”

Wold has a message for anyone leaning toward making the choice that saves lives.

“If you get the screening tests done, you have a greater chance of living a healthy, productive life,” Wold said. “If something pops up, you’ll find out before the late stages. This is very important.”

The mobile unit made its first stop at the Northwestern Louisiana Cancer Center in Natchitoches on Sept. 2. It has made three more visits in Natchitoches and will be making stops in other parishes in the near future.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Trayce Snow, cancer screening specialist, at 318-767-3027.
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