It has been 10 years this November since Debbie Fassino was diagnosed with breast cancer and six since she was told about her thyroid cancer.
Parkridge Medical Center, 2333 McCallie Ave., Aug 21, 4-8 p.m.; Aug. 24, 7-11 a.m.
Parkridge East Hospital, 941 Spring Creek Road, Aug. 21, 4-8 p.m.; Aug. 23, 7-11 a.m.
YMCA Hamilton Place, 7430 Shallowford Road, Aug. 22, 3-7 p.m.; Aug. 24, 7-11 a.m.; Aug. 25, 8-11 a.m.
Cleveland YMCA, 220 Urbane Road NE, Aug. 22, 7-11 a.m.; Aug. 23, 3-7 p.m.; Aug. 25, 8-11 a.m.
Memorial North Park Hospital, 2051 Hamill Road, Aug. 23, 3-7 p.m.
Downtown YMCA, 301 Sixth St., Aug. 24, 6-10 a.m.
Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, 730 E. M.L. King Blvd., Aug. 25, 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
Now cancer-free, Fassino said she does whatever she can to help anyone dealing with the same challenges, and this year, she is helping with a national study that aims to identify ways to prevent cancer altogether.
Fassino is a community champion for the American Cancer Society's cancer prevention study 3, a 20- to 30-year research project that looks at lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors and their impact on cancer rates and cancer prevention.
The study is the third in a series that began nearly 60 years ago. The most recent study from the 1980s helped identify the substantial effect of cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke on lung cancer and premature death, prompting the evolution of standardized warning labels on cigarettes, as well as numerous smoke-free legislative measures that continue to resonate today, even locally.
In Chattanooga this summer, the ACS hopes Fassino and the other nearly 90 champions will be able to recruit about 1,000 enrollees for the study that begins Aug. 21, which is being called a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to help researchers.
In Tennessee alone, the ACS estimates there are more than 6,000 new cases of lung cancer this year, followed by more than 4,600 new breast cancer patients and 4,900 new cases of prostate cancer.
For Fassino, those numbers are a reminder that everyone probably knows at least one person in their lives who has or is dealing with cancer. Those staggering facts motivate her to get people involved in the study so that future generations might have the hope of never experiencing the same statistics.
"You never see it coming. Cancer has no boundaries, and it doesn't care. We're all in this together, and we should be helping each other whenever we can. I just feel like that makes a difference in your daily living," Fassino said.
The local effort is part of a nationwide goal to track the health and lifestyles of at least 300,000 cancer-free adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years old over several decades. The study is done via surveys that are sent through the mail. The initial registration and enrollment requires an in-person visit so that baseline measurements and blood samples can be taken as a foundation.
According to the study materials, researchers confidentially measure hormones, nutrients, chemicals, metals and genetic factors that might be related to one's risk of getting cancer. Periodic questionnaires sent over the 20- or 30-year span help paint a detailed picture of the lifestyle and environment for each participant over time.
So far, a little more than 300 people have signed up in Chattanooga, and officials are encouraging anyone who is interested in the study to register online now to speed the in-person enrollment process later in the month.
Although no one will be turned away if they show up at any of the locations without preregistering, committing in advance will let organizers know how many supplies to have on hand and will also reserve a time for each enrollee. Walk-ins will most likely have additional wait times behind the preregistered reserved appointments, officials said.
Fassino said this is a great way for people to get involved and help out in a way that doesn't hit their wallets during tight economic times.
"When people say they would love to be able to help, to do something ... Well, this is what you can do. You can make a difference. What you do can be so important to the next generation," she said.