SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. — A Jacksonville oncologist and 2003 Satellite High School graduate is asking questions after she and several of her former classmates were diagnosed with cancer.
Dr. Julie Greenwalt, of the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, battled a rare, aggressive form of appendix cancer.
She first contacted the Florida Department of Health about one year ago to ask the agency to take a closer look at the cancer cases. Her resolve was strengthened after a recent Military Times article about the detection of water contaminates linked to cancer and developmental delays in children at military bases nationwide, including Patrick Air Force Base.
Greenwalt asked Victoria Hicks, a friend and fellow Satellite High School alumna, to discuss her breast cancer diagnosis with the health department.
"I was 33, and I had no family history," Hicks said. "I went to the doctor nine months before my actual diagnosis and was told it's nothing, it's no big deal, and it grew into an 8-centimeter mass."
Greenwalt said the pattern of cancer diagnoses is concerning.
"I think it's an abnormal pattern that so many young people in their 30s are getting cancer without family history," she said. "I'm not trying to cause any panic, just trying to create awareness that there might be a problem."
FDOH told Channel 9 that although the agency hasn't launched a formal investigation, it recognizes the importance of gathering and assessing information that could help determine necessary next steps.
Greenwalt said current and former Brevard County residents who have been diagnosed with cancer are asked to contact the county health department's epidemiologist to provide details of their diagnosis and related information.
Relatives of patients who have died from cancer are also asked to report that information to the agency.
"I just feel grateful to be alive, and I know that God has a plan for my life," Greenwalt said. "(Perhaps) this is part of it -- to try and help figure this out."
She said she plans to organize a community meeting in Satellite Beach to increase awareness.
"I hope now that it's out there, the possibility of people getting screened sooner can help save more lives," Hicks said.
Cox Media Group