There is no “cluster” of a rare form of brain cancer in the Dalton area, according to state officials.

State epidemiologist Susan Vance says a recently completed study found 10 cases of Glioblastoma multiforme in Whitfield County between 2000 and 2004, the latest year for which data were available.

“We projected, based on the population, about that many cases,” Vance said.

Whitfield County has a population of around 91,000 people, according to Census Bureau statistics. Some sources indicate 2-3 diagnoses of the cancer per 100,000 people each year.

“We don’t believe we are seeing more than the expected number of this type of cancer,” Vance said.

The Georgia Division of Public Health began the study last year after being contacted by some local individuals who have Glioblastoma. The study involved a number of different tracks.

First, analysts looked at the state cancer registry to determine the number of cancer cases and compared that to the scientific data on the frequency of various forms of cancer.

“The second part is to look at the environmental piece of it,” Vance said.

They used the 2006 Georgia hazardous site inventory to plot on a map known sources of hazardous substances. Then they plotted Glioblastoma cases on those maps. They found no geographic associations.

The study also involved a survey of Dalton-area residents.

“Whitfield County residents who reported their concerns were involved in the development of questions for the assessment, and we used their suggestions of areas where they thought the questionnaire should be distributed,” Vance said.

The state distributed more than 300 of the surveys and received a little more than half back.

“We didn’t find any undocumented cases of Glioblastoma, meaning we had captured them all in our database,” Vance said.

In recent weeks, Chattanooga’s WTVC Newschannel 9 television station has run a series of stories on a purported cancer cluster in the area. One report claimed some doctors, who were not named, have called Dalton “the Cancer Capital of the World.” Another report claimed the station knew of 22 cases of Glioblastoma since 1999 “connected to the greater Dalton area.”

Jason Pilcher’s son Braden has Glioblastoma, and he says he believes the incidence of the cancer is higher than it should be in Dalton.

“I do believe they have missed something. I don’t know what it might be,” he said when informed of the results of the study.

Dr. Bill McKay, a radiation oncologist at Hamilton Medical Center, says local health officials likely would have spotted any higher-than-normal incidence of Glioblastoma. Hamilton Medical Center has a permanent cancer committee, including a full-time tumor registrar, that keeps track of cancer data and tries continually to find ways to improve cancer care.

“We not only keep up with patients who were diagnosed at our facility, we keep up with patients who were diagnosed at another facility and are treated at our facility. And we keep up with patients who are diagnosed at our facility and treated elsewhere,” McKay said.

Hamilton’s tumor registry includes demographic information on each cancer patient, the type of cancer, the type of treatment and the outcome of the treatment.

McKay says the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer regularly checks the cancer data Hamilton maintains.

He said when concerns about Glioblastoma were first raised several months ago, members of the cancer committee checked and found their reported rates were no higher than would be expected statistically. He says they also compared their numbers to those of hospitals of a similar size across the state and found Hamilton’s reports of Glioblastoma were in line with those other hospitals.

React to this story:

0
1
0
1
0

Recommended for you