story by Ryan Saylor
Residents in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma are being invited to take part in research that could impact cancer treatment for generations to come.
According to Rhonda Brammell, health initiatives representative at the American Cancer Society of Northwest Arkansas, the study will monitor the health of individuals for 25 years looking for common links between people diagnosed with cancer.
"They'll basically separate the people in the study who get diagnosed with cancer and those who don't and analyze the data and see what they have in common," Brammel said.
In order to take part in the study, a person must be between the ages of 30 and 65 and never have been diagnosed with cancer.
The only exception to the cancer-free qualifier is if a person has had two different types of skin cancer — basal and squamous cell.
Kim Pullium, director of the clinical research department at Sparks Medical Center in Fort Smith, said participants in the study will help researchers understand how the changes in the American lifestyle have affected cancer diagnosis.
"It is really important that we identify new risk factors and new preventative measures and that is something the study is looking for," she said. "We have had so much change in our lifestyles in the last 30 years and there is so much we are doing right, but there are also things we could change," she said.
One key tool in the study will be the use of technology, not only to recruit new study participants, but also for answering questionnaires associated with the ongoing study, Pulliam said.
During the enrollment period, which occurs April 2-3, Pulliam is hoping to see a large amount of men signing up for the study.
"I know 75% of our participant enrollment are women, so yeah, we need more guys to sign up," she said, adding that she thinks the large number of female participants is likely due to the large number of women hospital employees and their recruitment of other female participants.
"I think that's what is contributing to that at our site, in particular," she said.
In addition to men, Bramell encouraged minorities to get involved.
"One that that we want to point out is we're hoping to have a very diverse study group, all ethnicities, all races, all backgrounds," she said.
During enrollment for the study, which can be completed at this website, participants will be asked a lot of background information needed for the study, Pulliam said.
"There is a survey the moment they sign up to be a volunteer. There is a baseline survey which is one of the tools of the study," she said.
After signing up online, study participants will be scheduled to come in to Sparks one of those two days in April so the study officials can obtain additional medical information, Pullium said, adding that the remainder of the study would be completed via correspondence.
In all, Bramell said she hopes to have 200 individuals sign up for the study.
She said for anyone on the fence on whether or not to volunteer to be a part of the study, they should think about the impact the study could have on future generations.
"I think for me personally, I like to tell people that I have three small children who are going to grow up watching me participate in this study," she said. "To me, it's teaching them a lesson about volunteering and making a difference. Whatever comes out of this study 25 years from now impacts their lives."
Hopefully the results of the study won't only impact Bamell's children's lives with a better understanding of cancer, but it will knock out cancer altogether, she said.
"What we will find out from this will hopefully help prevent cancer," Bramel said. "If you take away that message, I don't know how you can deny what we are doing."