Healthcare systems come together to raise awareness for colon cancer

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Several healthcare systems in Baton Rouge have been working together to fight the disease.

One local doctor has even dedicated his career to helping cancer patients after his father died from colon cancer.

Dr. Justin Brown, Director of Cancer Metabolism Research Program at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, was only 14 years old when his father died. 

“He looked at me and it was the first time I’d have ever seen him cry. He said I have cancer and from that moment on the rest of the day I don’t, I don’t really remember,” said Dr. Brown.

His father was just 46 years old when he died. Dr. Brown said it was a big setback for his family.

“Then thereafter, um, it was all planning, it was trying to figure out what are we going to do,” said Dr. Brown.

However, as Dr. Brown looks back on his father’s death he realizes he gained strength and a future career path in cancer research.    

“Baton Rouge and Louisiana is a special place to do cancer research. I, I am so blessed to be able to be at Pennington Biomedical to have access to cutting edge equipment,” said Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown leads the Cancer Metabolism Research Program at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. His goal is to help cancer patients in Louisiana. His research is focused on cancer survivorship and prevention.

Dr. Brown has also teamed up with Dr. Victor Lin, Research Medical Director, at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.   

“He is enrolling patients into a study who have completed their treatment for colon cancer with intent to cure their colon cancer. This partnership with Pennington, you know, has been something that we are really excited about. We can bring both of our expertises to bear,” said Dr. Lin.

In addition, their staff works together by comparing data, discussing solutions and helping patients.

“His research staff actually come talk to patients here at the Mary Bird campus to gauge interest and since they are right down the street from us it makes it a really easy process,” said Dr. Lin.  

In addition to collaboration with Pennington Biomedical, the cancer center holds awareness and education events. They have also teamed up with the organization called Taking Aim at Cancer in Louisiana.

“So, a big part of that is getting the word out to tell people, hey you need to be getting screened, you need to be thinking about colon cancer, making sure that we take care of this before it becomes a bigger problem,” said Dr. Lin.   

Dr. Lee also spoke about the importance of getting screened early.  

“If we can catch it early on and intervene before it becomes a cancer then we can actually make a really big impact,” said Dr. Lin.

The recommended screening age has also dropped from 50 to 45. If those guidelines were in place when Dr. Brown’s father was diagnosed his dad could have discovered the disease earlier. 

“I think he’s incredibly proud,” said Dr. Brown.

On March 28, Taking Aim at Cancer in Louisiana is holding an event in Baton Rouge called Colorectal Cancer Day at the Capitol. The event will discuss the disease and how to prevent it. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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