Firefighters climb steps of La. capitol to raise awareness about cancer

Firefighters climb stairs at La. capitol to raise awareness for cancer

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Most people come to the Louisiana capitol to debate or get a bill passed that could be life-altering. Those who climbed 30 flights of stairs at the capitol Tuesday morning (Feb. 4) aren’t legislators though.

However, they are change-makers covered in heavy-duty gear and fire hats.

“The journey I’ve been through, the journey I’ve seen other people go through, it’s just a small chip off the back of what goes on behind the scenes,” said Seth Champagne, a cancer survivor.

Champagne has been running into burning buildings for 12 years, but he has faced a different type of battle as a cancer survivor.

“I kind of had an idea of what was going on, but wasn’t for sure,” Champagne said.

With each step up the stairs, these firefighters carry those that have had a bout with cancer.

“I look at it as just another stepping stone in life. God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just take it one step at a time," said Champagne.

Dr. Jay Brooks with Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge is one step in that treatment process.

“Lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer are the most common cancers,” Dr. Brooks said. “They make up about half of all the cancers that are seen in the United States.”

Dr. Brooks is a medical oncologist and vice chair of hematology and oncology for Ochsner. He says cancer is a very common disease. About one out of three people will develop invasive cancer and for the most part, they are preventable, Dr. Brooks says.

“Colon cancer is a very preventable disease,” he said. “Probably about 90% of patients have regular screenings of the colon, whether that be with the advanced DNA testing of the stool or with colonoscopy examination.”

Dr. Brooks says lung cancer represents about 25% of all cancer in the United States.

“It represents 5% of all the deaths in the United States. Lung cancer is almost 90 to 95% preventable by not inhaling tobacco products, not inhaling vaping products, and avoiding secondhand exposure to tobacco," Dr. Brooks said.

The veteran oncologist says screening is the number one way to avoid cancer. The second most common cause of the disease is obesity.

“We’ve learned over the last 20 years that there is a chemical made in the blood that is linked to fat cells that make one more susceptible to developing cancer," he said.

The doctor says both men and women over 45 should get the HPV vaccine and that women shouldn’t skip the mammogram; make an appointment for that every year.

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