Health fair provides cancer awareness

Nicholas Soirez

According to the National Cancer Institute, Louisiana has a higher cancer rate than the U.S. average. Some medical doctors around the region attribute this to plumbing and pollution issues, and some believe that a lack of cancer education and testing leads to higher rates of the disease. But institutions like the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center are looking to lower the cancer rate in Louisiana by providing free testing and health care to residents in the Monroe area.

The Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center hosted a Live Well Delta event at the Monroe Civic Center Saturday morning. Sponsored by Healthy Blue, a health care insurance company, the event is meant to encourage people to learn about their bodies and live healthier lives.

According to Renea Duffin, the vice president of Cancer Support and Outreach of Mary Bird Perkins, the community cancer center is over 50 years old and provides cancer treatment and education programs to those who need cancer services. They treat patients regardless of pay and ensure proper treatment for those who have abnormal findings in their screenings. 

 “We want them to be aware of their bodies and understand when they see changes and recognize that they need to get screened,” Duffin said.

In order to welcome as many people in the community as possible, the event is designed to be a fun-filled activity. The event offers activities for kids, free food, fitness and music to the people attending.

“It’s a fun atmosphere, and it takes away some of that fear that people have about cancer,” Duffin said.

Along with the fun activities, several health institutions, including the Louisiana Department of Health and the Louisiana Agricultural Center, sat up stands around the event to encourage the public to learn about health. 

Free screenings for breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer were offered. To encourage more people to get screened, raffle tickets were offered to screening patients. 

The main focus of Saturday’s event was to encourage more people to become invested in their health by making health education more fun. Kathy Victorian, the Medicaid Territory marketing manager for Healthy Blue, argues that health education is fun in itself. 

 “My sister was diagnosed with stage 0 cancer,” Victorian said. “A year ago, her daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. So we turned it into a family night so that we could educate our own family about what has already affected our family. Going pink for my niece and my daughter is one thing, but going pink to educate my whole family is on a whole different level.”

Victorian emphasized that Healthy Blue’s goal is to improve the lives of those they serve. In that way, Victorian said, partnering with Mary Bird Perkins is “a win-win not just for both entities but for the community overall.” 

Because of events like Live Well Delta, hundreds of people receive free cancer screenings every year, and according to Duffin, those who find cancer from those screenings will be given proper treatment for their illnesses. People attending the event received important information about health and cancer awareness. 

Angelica Pennyweather, an attendee at the event, said that she feels that the event is really important because “a lot of people don’t even go in for a regular checkup.” 

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center will continue to provide free cancer screenings for the public and improve health education and cancer awareness.