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Officials announce initiative for cancer treatment statewide

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BATON ROUGE - Tonja Mcmillan has been a hairstylist for nearly 20 years. But it was only eight months ago that a phone call changed her life.

“I was on my way to work, got a phone call. They just said 'your biopsy came back and it is cancer,’” said McMillan. “It took all I had just to make it to work.”

She had been diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer.

“Once I got here, I went in the office with my business partner Jackie, and we just cried for a long time,” said McMillan.

Like many people with cancer, her doctor could have diagnosed her even sooner.

“She didn't say anything, so I didn't say anything. But had I said something, I would've started treatment earlier and it would've been at an earlier stage,” she continued.

Early diagnosis is one of the goals of the Department of Health's new initiative, Taking Aim at Cancer.

Governor John Bel Edwards joined the state’s healthcare stakeholder as they discussed moving forward with the initiative.

“Tens of thousands are being screened now and receiving diagnosis much earlier in the disease stage so that they can be more effectively treated, in terms of treating the cancer, but also in terms of the cost of the treatment,” Edwards said.

With a $500,000 grant from United Health Foundation, healthcare providers statewide will work together to improve outcome and decrease racial disparities.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, Dr. Rebekah Gee, says the initiative will have healthcare providers statewide analyze data and initiate changes that may ultimately lead to fewer people dying of cancer.

“Looking at payer data... Where are the costs of care high? Where are people getting diagnosed late? What have they done? And this is helping us today with all these break-out groups. They've brought it all together to say, 'Here's the picture of cancer care for this state,'” Gee said.


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