• 46°

Free cancer screenings coming to LaPlace on May 31

LAPLACE — Cancer related deaths in St. John the Baptist Parish hover above the state average, according to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, making early detection an important safety measure for residents.

Community members with or without health insurance will have access to free breast and colorectal cancer screenings from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 31 in front of Stage in the Riverlands Shopping Center of LaPlace.

Participants can expect to see a Mary Bird Perkins mobile medical unit in the parking lot, staffed with compassionate patient navigators who assist in scheduling next steps if abnormalities arise.

Johnnay Benjamin, director of early detection and education, said Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center helps eliminate barriers to health care.

“We know that in addition to insurance barriers, there are other barriers as far as time constraints, distance and geography,” Benjamin said. “This is an opportunity for us to make screenings available in the community and potentially identify a cancer at its earliest stage where we have more options for treatment and a better chance of survival long term.”

Breast cancer screenings should be conducted every 12 months when no symptoms are present, according to Benjamin.

Women ages 18 or older that attend the LaPlace screenings receive clinical breast exams, while women 40 and older can receive mammogram imaging.

“Mammogram results would come at a later time, but they would still have access to a patient navigator to get the follow up that they need,” Benjamin said.

Women are urged to come in for a conversation with onsite nurses if they feel a lump in the breast, if a breast is sore to the touch or if there is dimpling, inversion of the nipple or discharge when not lactating.

Everyone who has not been screened in the past 12 months is welcome, and no additional identification is needed.

“Because of the generosity of the community, we have funds to pay for mammograms for individuals that don’t have health insurance,” Benjamin said. “If they have insurance, insurance will be billed for the mammogram.”

Colorectal screenings are offered through take-home kits and consultations with patient navigators.

While mailing in a take home screening kit is not a replacement for a colonoscopy, Benjamin said the kits are valuable tools for early detection.

“Guidelines say people of average risk will be screened at age 45 or older,” Benjamin said.

“However, if there is anyone who has concerns if they have any changes in their bowel habits or other concerns with family history, they are welcome to come out and talk to us.”

Colorectal cancer risk factors also include polyps present in past colonoscopies, sudden unexplained weight loss and blood in stool.

Scott Miller, public relations manager for Mary Bird Perkins, said screening participants should keep in contact with their primary care provider or gynecologist. Additional questions can be directed to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.

To schedule an appointment, call 866-595-7244.