MYRTLE BEACH — The American Cancer Socity is looking for a few good volunteers.
In what ACS spokeswoman Denise Richbourg said is a first for the Grand Strand, residents are eligible to participate in a study looking at factors that may prevent or cause cancer.
“We’re looking for the lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that can cause or prevent cancer,” she said. “We’ll follow people who have never had cancer for 20 or 30 years.”
Richbourg is one of those participants in the society’s Cancer Prevention Study 3 and said she’s already started. The ACS is holding a kickoff event Tuesday at Coastal Carolina University to give more information on the study and to start enrolling people. Organizers are hoping to enroll 300 volunteers, though there’s no limit. Local subjects will join what’s hoped to be a total of 300,000 participants nationwide.
The kickoff is in the Kline Hospitality Suite at the Brooks Football Stadium and parking will be reserved at the stadium lot.
Anyone between 30 and 65 years old with no personal history of cancer is eligible to be a part of the study. Initially, blood samples will be taken along with a survey which Richbourg said takes about 45 minutes.
The survey asks for information such as where a person has lived, what medicines they’ve taken and some family medical history. Surveys will be completed every two to three years for, but shouldn’t take as much time as the initial enrollment survey because the subsequent surveys will serve as updates to the original information.
Corrina Hutcherson can’t participate in the study, but she’ll be speaking at the kickoff.
In March, at 47, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.
“I didn’t have any warnings, any symptoms, but I had a wonderful primary care doctor,” Hutcherson said.
Her doctor noticed Hutcherson’s father had died from colon cancer at age 46 and suggested she be tested.
“Three days later I walked into the doctor’s office and she said, ‘its cancer,’ ” Hutcherson said. “My husband and I just looked at her.”
For Hutcherson, a mother of two boys, she said immediately she went into battle mode asking what the next step was.
“And then I prayed,” she said.
Since the diagnosis, she’s turned 48, had two surgeries and endured nearly six months of chemotherapy with still about a month left.
She’ll tell her story Tuesday, though she’s still surprised at her involvement.
“I found that I’ve been able to encourage others that haven’t been so fortunate with their symptoms and side effects,” she said. “I’ve helped to be kind of an advocate. I never thought that would be my role. It’s kind of like I’ve pushed myself aside and I just want to reach out and help others even though I’m going through this.”
Hutcherson has already been spreading the word about the study to everyone she knows, including her United Postal Service delivery man who’s been delivering some of the chemotherapy medication she has to take.
Everyone’s had a good reaction, she said, including the UPS driver who said he wanted to sign up.
“It’s so important,” Hutcherson said. “There are too many lives being lost. That’s sad to think about, but with all these people participating in the study hopefully we’ll be able to cut that number down and more people will be able to live.”
Richbourg said it will be interesting to see if there’s a genetic marker or maybe regional factors that cause cancer.
Her father had bladder cancer, which is one reason why she’s joined the study.
“Obviously, I’m working here for a reason,” she said. “I want to find out what causes and prevents cancer. I want to get us so that my daughter, and should I ever be blessed with grandchildren, don’t ever have to hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’ ” she said.
“It’s great that we’ve made such huge advances in treatment and diagnostics, but we still have 1 in 2 men, 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 8 children diagnosed. Isn’t it better if never need the diagnosis because we know how to not get it?”
Enrollment in the study will continue through 2013. Anyone who may not be eligible due to their age or being a cancer survivor, is still encouraged to attend the kickoff and be a “champion” helping to spread the word about the importance of the study, Richbourg said.
Terri DeCenzo, a member of the Coastal Cancer Collaborative, and John Gibson, the director of Conway Medical Center, are also scheduled to speak at the kickoff.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.