Brain cancer case numbers in St. Lucie County not excessive, state health experts say

Brain cancer case numbers in St. Lucie County not excessive, state health experts say. (WPEC)

No cancer cluster— that’s the word from the State Health Department regarding a group of local brain cancer cases.

But at least some families dealing with this cancer said the new findings don’t add up.

“I know that they are getting their information from the cancer registry, but I sure would like to go over those numbers,” said Stephanie Ankiel-Cunningham.

Her husband, Mark Cunningham, has an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma, which has no cure.

Ankiel-Cunningham, a driving force behind a St. Lucie County glioblastoma support group and Facebook page, says she personally knows of 11 cases from Fort Pierce and northern Port St. Lucie in the past two years.

CBS12 obtained the document the Health Department just issued, which explains an analysis of cancer data in St. Lucie County.

The Health Department analysis used the Florida Cancer Data System, looking at cases from 1996 to 2015.

The findings: “No statistically significant excess of glioblastoma in any of the local areas of St. Lucie County."

It also explained there was an average of 10 new cases a year, and noted “the occurrence of the cancer in all local areas in St. Lucie County mirrored what is to be expected given the population size and demographics.”

CBS12 spoke with the Cunninghams and Joshua Whitelaw, who grew up on the next street over from the couple the same block.

He also has glioblastoma.

“It gives you chills, because here’s another person from the same exact neighborhood with glioblastoma,” Ankiel-Cunningham said.

She drove Whitelaw and a CBS12 crew to that neighborhood in southern Fort Pierce. Cunningham and Whitelaw pointed out their families’ homes and the one-time dwelling of a 44-year-old man who died of glioblastoma last year.

“What’s not normal is that they’re all within the same neighborhood, within walking distance— that’s not normal,” Ankiel-Cunningham said.

“I hope they figure out what’s going on,” Whitelaw said. “The truth isn’t always convenient or popular, but it needs to be found.”

Ankiel-Cunningham also pointed out the study only looked at data through 2015. Most of the current cases were diagnosed since then, she said.

The families hope to learn more when they meet with Health Department representatives.

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