New student health group hosts cancer lecture

Christina Salter

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Members of Plus Energy: Students Fighting Cancer hosted their first campus event Tuesday night, an informational session on Gardasil, the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine that can also prevent cervical cancer.

About 20 students attended the lecture, which featured speakers Dr. Sharon Handelsman, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mercy Hospital, and Katie Guilfoyle, the coordinator of violence prevention and sexual health education in NU’s Health Education Department. The event was co-sponsored by Sexual Help & Assault Peer Education, the Women’s Center and emPOWER.

Plus Energy is a national nonprofit cancer-fighting organization that recently began expanding its program outside the East Coast. President of NU Plus Energy chapter Beth Kacel said she first heard about the chance to bring the group to NU through an undergraduate listserv. The Weinberg sophomore became interested in the opportunity because her grandfather fought cancer four times.

Kacel began organizing the group at the end of Fall Quarter and it started holding weekly meetings at the beginning of March. The organization, which currently has eight members and is hoping to expand its membership, is trying to earn ASG student group status, Kacel said.

“I’m trying to make the group something that gives people pride and passion to pour everything they have into it,” she said.

Handelsman talked in detail about HPV and cervical cancer, including the causes, risk factors, testing and treatment. The doctor said there is a common misperception of cervical cancer as a “cancer of elderly people.” She also emphasized the importance of taking action to protect oneself.

“If you come away with one thing, it’s that this disease is preventable,” she said.

Guilfoyle ended the lecture by discussing the vaccine’s availability at NU Health Service and in the Chicago area.

Weinberg sophomore Lyzanne Trevino said she had heard about Plus Energy as a member of SHAPE and came to the lecture to find out more.

“Everything I wanted to know was answered,” she said.

The national organization’s main missions are education, fundraising and volunteering, and Kacel said NU’s chapter hopes to continue with educational events and begin volunteering in the area. Some of the group’s ideas for future events include a faculty pie-eating contest with only antioxidant-rich pies and handing out sunscreen at the Lakefill.

Though the Gardasil lecture was tailored to women, the group’s focus is not just on women’s cancers, Kacel said.

“The next event will probably be much more inclusive toward the greater Northwestern community,” she said.

The purpose of the group is to channel the passion and creativity of students toward the cause, Kacel said.

“(Plus Energy) is creating a national community of students helping students fight cancer,” she said.