The LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health has been awarded a $2.2 million grant to increase the availability of health information and support services for young breast cancer survivors in the Gulf South. The funding, awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over five years, will support the development and implementation of strategic and integrated multi-media health education and awareness campaigns to address their health information needs.
A three-state coalition -- Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama called the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivors Network -- will be formed. Donna Williams, DrPH, Associate Professor and Director of LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health's Cancer Prevention and Control Programs, is the principal investigator and will lead the coalition. Partners also include Mary Bird Cancer Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Nursing. They will work together to develop and disseminate pertinent and culturally sensitive health information via social media. The goal is to empower young breast cancer survivors to advocate for their care and access the services they need, resulting in increased quality of life. Messages will address family history and genetic risks, psychosocial health and support, reproductive health and fertility, family support, health monitoring and evidence-based preventive lifestyle behaviors like maintaining a healthy weight, reducing tobacco use and excessive alcohol use.
While breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are difficult for women of any age, young survivors may find it overwhelming. Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer have unique needs. In addition to the tendency to have more aggressive disease, many are faced with issues related to working and developing careers or going to school, maintaining relationships and raising young families.
The initiative builds upon and expands LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health's successful SurviveDat Program, an online resource created in partnership with the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center three years ago. Content will be based upon the needs assessment conducted by LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health through its Survive Dat and Louisiana Tumor Registry programs. More than 100 participating young breast cancer survivors indicated a desire for clarity on issues such as genetic counseling and testing, fertility, premature menopause, psychosocial support, and relationships and dating. A communications plan will direct the kinds of messages and content to be developed and the timelines for deployment. All common messages will be pushed from LSU Health New Orleans, the central site, across state platforms. Each state will develop local resource lists and events. Straightforward materials for health care and service providers will be developed to direct women to the network.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age. New cases of breast cancer in women under age 45 totaled 4,380 in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama from 2007-2011. Forty percent of cases were in African American women. While all three states were below the national average for the incidence of breast cancer from 2006- 2010, Louisiana ranked second in the U.S. in deaths from breast cancer, and Mississippi ranked fifth. The Gulf States also ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in deaths from breast cancer for women under 50. For African-American women, Louisiana ranked fourth in deaths from breast cancer.
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