After WPTV first reported about 11 Glioblastoma cases in the Fort Pierce community, more Glioblastoma patients or their families have come forward to say they also have a loved one battling the horrible disease.
Now, the number of local cases is more than 13. Patients and their families continue to fear there could still be more.
All 13 have been diagnosed within the last five years and live within 5 to 7 miles of each other.
The original 11 found each other simply through word of mouth.
Watch our original story below.
Stephanie Ankiel-Cunningham’s husband was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in 2016. When he started losing mobility and his personality started to change, she started looking locally for support.
She found much more than she ever expected.
Like Kim Hart, whose mother, in her 70s, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in 2017. Hart was in the same boat as Cunningham.
“I had no idea what it was, so immediately to the phone and Google because it was so rare,” Hart said.
She was also grateful to know she wasn’t alone, but also shocked and disheartened to see the local number of cases in their hometown.
Fort Pierce has roughly 45,000 residents.
An average of 13,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Glioblastoma each year, at a ratio of approximately one out of every 30,000 people.
The Fort Pierce patients feel that 13 people in five years, in such close proximity, is more than a coincidence.
“How many more are there? How many do we not know that aren’t on Facebook or that have dealt with it?” Hart said.
An area neurosurgeon, Dr. Chaim Colin, has treated some of the local patients.
“GBM [Glioblastoma] is not that common.”
We asked him to weigh in on the latest numbers.
“It’s high. It’s definitely high. Could that be a coincidence? I don’t know,” Dr. Colen said. He is now among the medical experts agreeing further investigating is warranted.
Dr. Henry Friedman, a neuro-oncologist and Deputy Director of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University, said genetics can contribute to the diagnosis, but so can the environment.
“For GBM, or Glioma’s in general, the only known environmental factor is exposure to ionizing radiation."
The Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County has met with several of the local Glioblastoma patients and has offered its services to them.
The Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee also offered the following statement to WPTV’s Meghan McRoberts:
"The Department is working with our staff at DOH-St. Lucie to find out more information from these residents. We're all interested in hearing their concerns and examining the information they're providing. Based on those initial steps, the state office will help DOH-St. Lucie determine the best path forward."
If you know of someone in the Fort Pierce area with glioblastoma, please contact reporter Meghan McRoberts at firstname.lastname@example.org .