Patient suspects 'cancer cluster' in Flower Mound

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 6:23 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 16 at 7:00 PM

FLOWER MOUND — Cathrine Benefiel should spend her days attending college and thinking about her future.

Instead, the 22-year-old Flower Mound resident spends a lot of time living day-to-day while chatting online in cancer support groups.

"It's a roller coaster," she said. "You just don't know what direction it will take you."

Benefiel was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. She has faced enormous hospital and treatment bills well over $100,000.

The diagnosis stunned her family. Her mom Mindy said they have no history of cancer.

"Just no history of it," she said. "It turned our world upside-down."

News 8 profiled a number of families in Flower Mound several years ago that were equally confused and concerned when their children were diagnosed with cancer.

Some of those families — and now the Benefiels — suspect heavy fracking operations in Flower Mound may be a contributing factor. The process can produce cancer-causing compounds like benzene. No firm link has been established in Flower Mound.

But the Texas Department of State Health Services recently announced it was going to again analyze whether cancer rates among children were higher in Flower Mound.

In 2010, the state conducted an initial study and ultimately determined there weren't more cases of leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or brain cancer than in other parts of Texas.

But a new analysis of those findings by a University of Texas research team found there actually was a strong indication of more cancer cases in the area.

At a recent Town Council meeting, officials said they were anxious to hear what type of results stem from the new study.

The Benefiels say they are anxious, too.

"If there is a correlation, we want to know... if there isn't a correlation, we want to know," Mindy Benefiel said.

The new analysis should be completed by June.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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