BRADENTON, Fla.-- A state agency is working to get answers for cancer survivors who say a school caused it all. The Florida Department of Health is collecting medical information on those who studied or worked at Bayshore High School in Bradenton.
The old Bayshore was demolished in the mid-1990s. The new school put up in its place. Just a mile away from the school FDH made it easier for those believe the school is responsible for their cancer diagnosis to turn in their medical record information.
It’s the one question that’s set off years of accusations and now a FDH health study.
“What were we exposed to? That’s the biggest thing. What were we exposed to?" asked Cheryl Jozsa.
Her sister passed away from a form of leukemia in 1999. Jozsa said five years later,her sister's classmate died from the same type of cancer. She said she has tried to get health officials to listen for years. She's also in charge of the Facebook page that connects Bayshore High School alumni in their search for answers.The group raised alarms after they say more than 300 of them developed cancer. Now the road to an answer, alongside the Manatee County School Board, FDH wants cancer survivors who studied or worked there to give them their medical records.
“It’s far reaching. We’re receiving forms from across the country which is really great," said Carrie Harter with FDH.
So far, about 140 people have responded and in six months experts will be able to answer if these numbers are far higher than normal. It's what they call a cancer cluster. But while some alumni are pleased at this progress some also think they’re not doing enough.
“It’s just another step that they’re taking to say ‘Hey we did this. So we’re done," said Kristin Moore.
We told her that regardless of any intent, it's a scientific study. One survivors have wanted for years.
"Right. It is what it is. We want answers," she replied.
Moore’s son, a Bayshore grad, was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 20-years-old.
"I’m terrified for my son a lot of people who have gotten cancer it’s come back two or three times and its ended their lives," she said.
Moore and Jozsa both expressed criticisms of the study because FDH wants data from graduating classes after 1981.
“We understand that people may have been diagnosed with cancer before that but in order for us to have that scientific study we can only go back to 1981," responded Harter.
While '81 is the year the Florida Cancer Registry was initiated the final study might actually only include data from those who graduated after '85.The reason? That's as far as school records go.
Health officials also stress that contractors have conducted a number of environmental studies and did not find any contaminants in the soil or water around the school. FDH is also considering adding more mobile units up until the study's conclusion. The window to collect medical record information has been extended through the end of March.
The patient form has to be mailed or hand delivered. You need to mail it or drop it off at:
The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County
Division of Disease Control and Health Protection
410 - 6th Avenue East
Bradenton, FL 34208