woman sitting nervously talking with doctor
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 19, 2024 ·  3 min read

Five Women Sat Near Each Other at Work, and All Got The Same Type of Cancer, Leading to Major Investigation

In a startling development, a potential cancer cluster is under investigation in Liverpool, Australia. Five women who worked in the same office space have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, leading to a major inquiry by health authorities. The close proximity of these cases has raised concerns about the safety of the workplace and the possibility of an environmental cause.

Discovery of the Cancer Cluster

Cancer in Newspaper
Credit: Pixabay

The unusual cancer diagnoses came about when the Liverpool City Council confirmed five current and former employees who worked on the sixth floor of their office building had developed thyroid cancer over the past three to five years. The affected women had all worked in close quarters, leading to suspicions of a common environmental factor. Four of the five women are participating in the investigation, while a sixth person, who also reported a thyroid condition, chose not to participate.1

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Response and Actions Taken

The building all the women worked in
Credit: 9News

In response to the findings, the City Council has relocated more than 40 employees who worked on the sixth floor to other areas. The council emphasized its commitment to staff welfare, stating, “The decision to relocate staff is in response to the council’s high level of concern for the welfare of its staff“. The United Services Union (USU) has called for the entire building to be shut down until an independent medical assessment clears the area.

Personal Accounts

Jenny Havilah in the hospital
Credit: 9News

Jenny Havilah, one of the women diagnosed with thyroid cancer, has been vocal about her experience. Havilah, who has already undergone surgery to remove her thyroid, expressed her fears to 9News Australia, saying, “I’m worried about my colleagues not just on the sixth floor but that worked anywhere in that building.” Her concern reflects the anxiety and uncertainty shared by many of her colleagues who are now questioning the safety of their workplace.

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Medical and Environmental Investigations

emergency team
Image for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Pixabay

The NSW Department of Health has launched an epidemiological investigation to determine if the cancer cases are indeed linked and, if so, to identify potential causes. Concurrently, the council has engaged an independent third-party environmental health consultant to conduct a thorough assessment of the building. These investigations aim to provide clear answers and ensure the safety of current and future employees.

Understanding Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer spelled out
Image for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Pexels

Thyroid cancer originates in the thyroid gland, which is responsible for producing hormones that regulate various bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.2 Symptoms of thyroid cancer can include a noticeable lump in the neck, changes in one’s voice, difficulty swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes. Despite these potential symptoms, thyroid cancer is most often detected when imaging tests are conducted for other reasons. Treatment for thyroid cancer is typically effective, especially when the disease is caught early.

Conclusion

Office space
Image for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Pexels

This case of five Australian women being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has brought significant attention to the potential health risks in certain work environments. As investigations continue, the priority remains the health and safety of the employees. The findings will be crucial in determining whether environmental factors contributed to these cases and what measures can be implemented to prevent similar occurrences in the future. In the meantime, the affected women and their colleagues must navigate the uncertainty with the hope that their workplace will be deemed safe and their health concerns will be addressed.

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Sources

  1. Five women who sat near each other at work all got the same type of cancer sparking urgent investigation.” Unilad. Niamh Shackleton. June 11, 2024.
  2. Thyroid cancer.” Mayo Clinic