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As part of its efforts to reach out to the community, the Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center has begun hosting a weekly radio broadcast called “Healthline” designed to provide the public with up-to-date cancer information.

The program focuses on a specific type of cancer each week and describes the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for that disease. While those involved in broadcasting the program said their objective is purely independent of the controversy surrounding the cancer center project, some community members said they believe the timing of the radio launch indicates it may be an effort to gain support from area residents.

Dr. Kenneth Miller, the director of supportive care programs at the center, and Dr. Edward Chu, the chief of the Section of Medical Oncology, host the show and have already covered topics ranging from colon cancer to Chinese herbal medicine.

Those involved with the broadcast maintain that although the program is a community outreach attempt, the timing of its launch was not influenced by any political controversy.

“This is a community outreach effort that is part of the mission of a designated comprehensive cancer center,” Chu said. “In thinking about doing this broadcast, we had no thoughts about the building or the politics of it.”

But some activists said they feel the broadcast might be an attempt to generate better relations with the community.

“All our organized strength has pushed the hospital to do better in reaching out to the community and reaching out in ways that they have never done before,” said Phoebe Rounds ’07, a member of the group Community Organized for Responsible Development. “I think [the broadcast] might be an example of this.”

Other staff at the center voiced similar opinions. Renee Gaudette, the associate director of public affairs and marketing at the center, said the timing of the program’s debut is not closely linked with the building project. The center’s administrators said the broadcast began as soon as it became feasible and that its only purpose is to further the mission of the center while also highlighting the progress made there.

Chu said that in addition to educating listeners on cancer-related issues, the program is a forum for the center to showcase its cancer specialists, clinical trials and programs available to patients.

Dr. Richard Edelson, the director of the center, stressed the importance of educating the general public, especially regarding cancers that can be easily treated if patients take preventative measures. Edelson cited the example of colon cancer, saying that more than 90 percent of cases can be prevented by periodic colonoscopies. But only 50 percent of people in Connecticut over the age of 50 have received an examination.

“The weekly radio broadcast, featuring discussions with cancer experts from our faculty, very substantially increases our capacity to reach patients and their families,” Edelson said. “To our knowledge, ours is the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center with this type of radio show.”

In addition to providing medical information, each broadcast includes a survivor story from a Connecticut resident, describing the personal experience of battling with cancer. Miller, whose wife had leukemia seven years ago, finds the combination of a personal and medical focus especially beneficial for cancer patients and their families.

“It’s a mixture of both very up-to-the-minute and state-of-the-art information about cancer therapy but also with a more personal slant as well,” Miller said. “It’s basically talking to experts who provide the care and really finding out at a very personal level what are the challenges that they see in their field, what are some of the challenges their patients face, and how patients and doctors ally together to fight the battle.”

Many listeners appreciate that the information is presented at an understandable level, Miller said.

“Part of the challenge to us has been to succinctly cover the major points of such big subjects in just one half-hour of discussion,” Edelson said. “While we are learning how to do that more and more effectively, we are [pleased] that the feedback which we have received so far from the listening public has been so positive.”

The center’s administrators hope that by having transcripts and audio of the program available online, the broadcasts will be a helpful research tool as well.

“Almost everybody’s family has been touched in some fashion by cancer,” Miller said. “There’s enough information in this program that it will be relevant to anyone.”

The program airs from 8:30-9:00 a.m. Sundays on WTIC Newstalk 1080 AM out of Hartford and is also available electronically through the hospital’s Web site.

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