Valdosta Daily Times

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June 19, 2014

Cancer Coalition brings treatment home

VALDOSTA — The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia hosted a luncheon Tuesday to raise awareness about cancer prevention and the organization’s efforts to collect data and provide services.

“The reason we are here is that too many of our families and coworkers suffer from cancer,” said Diane Fletcher, Cancer Coalition CEO. “We are here to fight cancer right here, right now.”

The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia’s mission is to work towards lowering high cancer rates in 32 South Georgia counties, including Lowndes. The Luncheon for Hope gave the organization an opportunity to present its efforts to community leaders and hear from health-care professionals about the importance of prevention and research.

One of the coalition’s primary functions, Fletcher said, is to gather data about cancer in the region.

“For overall health outcomes, Lowndes ranks 77 out of 159 counties. We do have areas to improve,” said Fletcher. “For all cancers, the incident rates in Lowndes are significantly higher than the state average.”

Lowndes is the sixth highest county in the state in overall instances of cancer, and nearly 500 new cases are diagnosed every year, Fletcher said.

The Cancer Coalition uses the data it collects to identify target areas for messaging and prevention efforts.

“In Miller County, we found that pregnant women were smoking. The rate was off the chart,” said Fletcher. “We designed a program to address that.”

The coalition designs programs to address the health-care needs of the working poor to provide preventive services they might otherwise ignore.

“There are women dying of cervical cancer in South Georgia when no one has to,” said Fletcher. “This is what we do. We reach those people.”

During the luncheon, Dr. John Devine, South Georgia Medical Center’s director of radiation oncology, spoke about the importance of cancer prevention and screening.

“There is no question that these things save lives,” said Devine.

Mark Wilson with Langdale Industries spoke about the value of the Cancer Coalition to the community, and James McGahee, former coalition board chair and cancer survivor, issued a call to action for the community to invest in the Cancer Coalition which focuses on local efforts.

“Every penny stays right in this region. That makes us different from national cancer organizations,” said Fletcher. “We are definitely making a difference. If you support us in any way, I can guarantee you will know how the funds are spent and how they are used. Everything is spent in this area.”

Fletcher also announced the Cancer Coalition’s 2014 Night for Hope, a fundraising gala that will also honor McGahee. The event will take place Nov. 22 at the Valdosta State University ballroom.

More information about the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia and the 2014 Night for Hope can be found at sgacancer.org.

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