Health officials: There is no cancer cluster in Henry County

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NEW CASTLE, Ind. (Nov. 4, 2015) - Families in Henry County got some surprising news on Wednesday. State health officials met with families affected by a rare form of brain cancer there, many believe that the county has what’s called a cancer cluster. But despite there being 26 cases diagnosed in 14 years in the county, the State Department of Health says in fact, that is below average.

Officials said that to find the cause of the cases in Henry County would be near impossible.

“During that time, if you look at an estimated expected number of cases, we would’ve expected 30 cases. So the total number of cases is less than what we would’ve expected,” said Dr. Jerome Adams, the Indiana State Health Commissioner.

There were three diagnosed cases though on one city street in New Castle. In response to that, the state Health Commissioner, said that just happened by chance.

“Six cases in a two year span in close proximity all indications are that that occurred by chance,” said Adams.

“I don’t think we came to any conclusions and I don’t think any of the families felt that,” said Burke Smith, whose wife was diagnosed with glioblastoma.

Smith’s wife and two of their close neighbors were all diagnosed with glioblastoma, an incredibly rare form of brain cancer, in a matter of months.

“How would you feel if that percentage was your daughter, or your wife, or your child? I understand the state has to do statistics, they’re all on gathering statistical date but I can tell you, not one family on the road has ever been contacted by the state,” said Smith.

“We care about them individually. We want to hear from each one of them individually and we’re going to take those stories and look at them as a whole to make sure we’re not missing anything,” said Adams.

State Health officials say because of privacy laws they can’t randomly contact cancer patients or their families.

“The doctors told us that glioblastoma is just like playing roulette. You’re unfortunate that the ball landed on you,” said Vickie Burke.

The announcement came with no surprises for Burke. Her husband died in 2014 of glioblastoma. ​She knew the answers from state officials Wednesday would be tough to hear, but she’s not giving up her fight to bring awareness to the disease that took her husband.

“Why can’t is start in Henry County? Why can’t these 26 people, these 26 families band together? Why can’t we be the ones to make a change?” she said.

The Indiana State Health Department is requesting that anyone that has been diagnosed with glioblastoma recently in Henry County, contact them. They want to talk to you and say their investigation in Henry County is not over.