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Wednesday, Mar 04, 2015
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Understanding cancer basics

Hernando Today correspondent


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More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, the American Cancer Society reports. Understanding the disease and how it spreads are critical to meeting the organization's goal to "transfer cancer from deadly to preventable."

One hundred years ago, the Cancer Society began its fight against the disease. Since then it has grown into the main force for outreach, information and research on its way to finding the causes, prevention and potential cures.

Cancer is the name given to abnormal cells that grow out of control. A normal cell grows, divides and dies in succession. But abnormal cancer cells grow at a faster rate; they duplicate but don't die off, and can invade other tissues in the body. In most cases, the cancer cells grow into tumors or, as in leukemia, invade the blood.

Finding a cure begins with understanding what causes certain people to contract cancer cells in their bodies. This is done through studies conducted during a specific length of time and with certain variables in place.

In fact, the American Cancer Society is about to launch its third Cancer prevention study, CPS-3. It hopes to register 300,000 volunteers for the study which will include participants from throughout Florida during a 20-year period.

The goal of this new study is to "better understand the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer and to ultimately eliminate cancer as a major health problem for this and further generations."

Lisa Stoessel, community representative for the American Cancer Society, said the study is vital to documenting data needed to continue the fight for a cure. "We've had two studies before this one," she said, both of which were important to the discovery of a link to lung cancer in the first study, and a connection between obesity and breast cancer in the second.

This is a great opportunity, Stoessel said, for those who want to pay it forward but cannot financially afford to donate money to fund research. While the commitment is long-term, the requirements are minimal.

CP-3 is open to those between the ages of 30 and 65 who never have been diagnosed with cancer (excluding basal or squamous cell skin cancer) and who are committed to a long-term study. Periodic follow-up surveys will be completed at home.

The CPS-3 study is recruiting in Hernando County, in collaboration with Oak Hill Hospital, for two days this month. Interested participants may request an appointment for either Nov. 14 or 21.

"Appointments are encouraged," Stoessel said, because the society has no idea how many people will respond. Once an appointment is set, participants will take an online questionnaire which should take about 30 to 60 minutes to complete. Then, at their appointment, a small amount of blood will be taken and the middle circumference of each participant will be measured.

Participants also will be required to read and sign an informed consent form.

Upon completion of the above steps, the cancer society will send periodic follow-up surveys to update information as well as an annual newsletter with updates and results of the study.

The Relay for Life Brooksville recently held its kick-off at First United Methodist Church in Brooksville. The CPS-3 study was discussed and questions were answered. Through Community Champions who recruit participants, it is estimated Hernando County will register at least 200 people for the study.

"Relay for Life helps significantly in funding our mission and makes our CPS-3 Study possible," Stoessel said. "That night they were signing up teams and getting information on how they can help with CPS-3."

Cancer affects everyone. Whether you have been diagnosed or know someone who is battling the disease, cancer is a topic that brings hopelessness and fear. It is life-changing and affects not only the person who is diagnosed but everyone in their circle.

For 100 years, the American Cancer Society has paved the way to breaking research that - it hopes - one day will eradicate the disease. And each study is one step closer to that result.

Stoessel's dedication to the American Cancer Society is her way of paying it forward, she said. Her sister was diagnosed with cancer and is now a survivor. "One day I want to be put out of a job," she said.

For more information about the Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3), contact Lisa Stoessel at (352) 585-4162. Or visit the American Cancer Society at

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