Even with her education and years spent as an oncologist, there’s still one question Dr. Sarah Vaiselbuh can’t answer: “Why me?”
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Dr. Sarah Vaiselbuh
As the director of the Children’s Cancer Center at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), she is asked this fairly often and wishes she could provide her young patients with a reason.
“They just look at you with their big eyes, and you can’t give them the answer,” Dr. Vaiselbuh said.
So for now, she just tells them the “how.” She instructs her patients on how they can manage the disease and work to beat the diagnosis.
But Dr. Vaiselbuh hopes she can one day provide the answer, with the help of initiatives like the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3, a nationwide effort that aims to identify the lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause the disease.
SIUH is one of four partner sites on the Island where people can partake in the first phase of the study, which includes completing a brief written survey, and providing physical measurements and a small blood sample. Participants are then asked to complete an at-home survey, and will receive follow-up surveys in the mail every two years for at least 20 years.
Organizers are looking to recruit 300,000 people nationwide who are between the ages of 30 and 65 and have never been diagnosed with cancer. On the Island, they hope to sign up at least 1,000.
“I think there is a very big need for this,” said Dr. Vaiselbuh, who also has worked with adults during her around 20-year oncology career.
She added, “The originality of this study is that it looks away from the patient population and starts to look at the healthy population. When we look at the healthy population, we can identify the differences between what it means being sick and healthy.”
Dr. Vaiselbuh will be participating in the study, and is helping recruit patients’ parents and family members. She hopes the study finds a common denominator that can help prevent cancer in the future, and also help researchers understand what keeps certain people cancer-free.
“There are people who live up to 100 and never get cancer,” she said. “This can show what it is in their genetic makeup that helps them live that long.”
She encourages everyone eligible to partake in the study. Participation is simple and doesn’t take much time, she said. Plus, by doing so, people can enhance the overall well-being of their community, and be part of something larger than themselves.
“By being healthy, and allowing their healthy blood to be examined, people should value the message that they are healthy,” Dr. Vaiselbuh added. “It’s always, ‘I can’t participate in this study, I don’t have the disease.’ But this is a great idea. You can participate in it because you are healthy.”
For more information on the Cancer Prevention Study-3, or to sign up, visit cancer.org/cps3statenisland. Andrea Boyarsky is the Health editor for the Advance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.