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Various health experts discuss glioblastoma with concerned St. Lucie County residents

Posted at 11:48 PM, Jun 12, 2018

More than 150 people stopped by an open house in Fort Pierce all about glioblastoma Tuesday night.

The open house, hosted by the Department of Health in St. Lucie County, brought together various experts from the health department, and experts in cancer and cancer research, including the Florida Cancer Data System, the Bureau of Environmental Health, Bureau of Radiation Control, Biomedical Research Advisory Council, American Cancer Society, Treasure Health Grief Support and the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Clint Sperber, administrator with the Department of Health in St. Lucie County, said it was an opportunity for the community to directly ask the experts any questions they have about glioblastoma, and express any concerns about the local cases in the county.

WPTV found at least 50 cases of glioblastoma over about the last five years.

The Florida Cancer Data System reported that the expected number of cases each year in the county is an average of 10. For now, officials with the state’s cancer registry say the local number of cases is not statistically high.

Still, some residents with glioblastoma fear something is making them sick. The most known cause of glioblastoma is exposure to ionizing radiation.

The department of health is still assessing information about the local cases, including information gathered by WPTV surrounding the cases in 2016 and 2017. That information is not yet available for review from the Florida Cancer Data System.

Andy Reich with the Bureau of Environmental Health said Tuesday that environmental testing is not out of the question, but for now, there are no plans for testing.

“Before we go out and do any additional testing, we’re going to be looking at the data that’s already available to see if that is important for our understanding of the illnesses that are in this community,” Reich said. That includes reviewing tests taken regularly by the Department of Environmental Protection.

“I'm happy that they’re giving it some attention and they can’t just let it go,” said Wendy Powell. She was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2015.

“I think they need to do testing. There’s no question on it,” said Powell.

She attended Tuesday’s open house with a simple purpose. “I wanted to hear what they know and see if there’s something that I can add, too,” Powell said.

She’s among those shocked to learn about the number of local cases, despite the department of health stating they are expected given the demographics of the area.

“Shocked. Totally shocked. And very worried.”

Some residents at least want testing in an area of Fort Pierce where nearly a dozen people were diagnosed within a few miles of each other. Some live within a few blocks of each other or on the same street in the 34982 zip code.

Congressman Brian Mast and his staff continue to collect information about the local cases in that area for their own investigation.

The health department says it is still in communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state’s cancer data system should be able to make public the number of recorded cases of glioblastoma in 2016 by the fall.