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Erie County Health Department establishes outreach to focus on ‘cancer cluster’

Establishing comprehensive cancer prevention program
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 18:26:22-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Concerned neighbors living in a so-called cancer cluster in Western New York will now soon be getting assistance with cancer prevention and screening information.

The cluster is on the border between east Buffalo and west Cheektowaga. The Erie County Health Department is now partnering with the University at Buffalo’s Research Foundation to deliver a comprehensive cancer prevention outreach program for people who live here.

7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley speaks with one woman living on the border. She who wants to know why cancer rates are high in her neighborhood. She is now fighting stage four lung cancer.

“I was out there. I was playing with my grandkids – now I’m on oxygen,” Janice Pugh, said tearfully.

Janice Pugh lives on Eggert Road within the cancer cluster.

Pugh has lived on the Cheektowaga side of Eggert Road for nearly 23 years - an area now within a so-called cancer cluster.

The cluster includes the 14211, 14215 and 14225 zip codes. Pugh is in the 14215

Pugh was diagnosed almost a year ago with lung and other cancers.

“They said lung cancer. Nodules in my chest, my neck - my lungs – my liver – my spine – yeah,” explained Pugh.

Pugh admits she was a smoker, but says she's not convinced it's the sole cause of her cancers.

Last November the state health department revealed Erie County has the third highest rate of cancer in the state.

The so-called cancer cluster includes a section of Buffalo's east side and Cheektowaga. Six cancers have been identified – that includes lung – prostate and kidney.

Erie county Health Commissioner Gale Burstein

"We couldn't just sit on this information – the county – we really felt that we had to do something about it – take action,” Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner.

Dr. Burnstein says they can't wait for the state to determine the causes and must give residents cancer prevention and screening information to change behaviors.

“We know that they are further analyzing their data to look at risk factors. Like behavior risk factors, environmental risk factors,” Burstein noted. “We need more information about why we have these clusters of increased risk."

The health commissioner said the initiative will operate alongside the county's existing Cancer Services Program. The. program allows eligible uninsured and underinsured county residents can be screened for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer at no cost.

Cancer risks are tied to smoking, obesity and poverty. But for Janice Pugh, she hopes the state provides more answers. She's worried about high lead levels discovered in her water and points to a nearby industrial plant and vacant fields.

“They ain't telling. Us anything - you. Call this person, says they don’t know – this person don’t know – nobody know nothing,” responded Pugh.

For now she tells us she is dealing with difficult cancer diagnoses one day at a time.

“I’m here so far – I’m just taking it day by day.”

Burstein explained that the UB team "will develop messages to increase cancer prevention awareness among neighborhood residents and promote cancer screening resources and access to high-quality health care services."

For more information you can contact the county and state:
Erie County Cancer Services Program: (716) 858-7376.
New York State Cancer Registry and Cancer Statistics: