Spike prompts cancer cluster investigation in Huron County
Published Tuesday, January 21, 2014 6:28PM EST
A Huron County cancer survivor has raised concerns about a spike in cancer cases in his hometown and the local health unit is now trying to find out what's caused so many of Glen Gardiner's neighbours to get cancer.
Gardiner can stand at the end of his driveway in Port Albert and point out at least six cancer patients.
"He had prostate cancer last year, she is going through breast cancer...from the end of my lane way down the main road to the highway, less than a kilometre I'll give you six more, two of whom have died."
After shocking his own doctor with the number of cancer patients on his street the former teacher got in touch with Dr. Erica Clark at the Huron County Health Unit.
"It was still within the range of what I would consider plausible, given that half the population will develop cancer in their lifetime, but it was, the numbers were high enough that we felt it was worth a second look," Clark says.
So since the start of the year, Clark has been fielding calls from cancer patients not only in Port Albert but all of the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, which is now the focus of a cancer cluster investigation.
"We know that they're as expected for the county...We're just looking to see, are they disproportionate for that township."
So far, there are no real answers or causes for the cancer cases in the area. Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh has about 5,600 residents living in a largely agricultural area bordering the Lake Huron shoreline.
Gardiner says "We just plain weren't prepared to just kind of let it go as if nothing has happened. Something has happened. The reasons, I don't know."
Clark says the study only works if people in the municipality call her and share their cancer story.
She hopes to have some answers on if there's a cancer problem in the area by the end of March.
Gardiner meanwhile has had both kudos for getting the investigation started and expressions of regret that not everyone will be reporting their illness.
But he says they've done their best, "Look Erica, if your switchboard isn't lit up with calls in, so be it. You've done your job, Dr.Neal and I have had an opportunity to express our concerns on the matter."
And like many in the Port Albert area, he awaits the report in March.