The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approved legislation designating November 10 as “Neuroendocrine Tumor Cancer Awareness Day” in New Jersey. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblyman Gary Chiusano, and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, all R-Sussex, Warren and Morris.

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Neuroendocrine tumor cancer, known as NET cancer, or carcinoid cancers, occurs when neuroendocrine cells grow into malignant tumors resulting in lung infections, wheezing, abdominal pain, heart palpitations, heartburn, skin rashes, anxiety attacks and can be fatal.

Although thousands of Americans suffer from NET cancer, most are incorrectly diagnosed and treated for a different disease because there is a lack of knowledge in the medical community about the disease.

“Many people mistakenly believe that Apple executive Steve Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer when in fact he died from complications of NET cancer,” said Senator Oroho.

“Many people with NET cancer have to wait more than five years for proper treatment because of delayed or mistaken diagnosis, which gives the cancer the time to spread to other vital organs,” Chiusano said. “Increasing awareness of these types of cancer will improve treatment until we can cure it once and for all.”

SJR-12 and AJR-48 seek to recognize the plight of those with NET cancer and increase awareness of the disease to spur research, improve treatment and diagnosis. Oroho, Chiusano, and McHose introduced the resolutions because of Frankford resident Hap Rowan who was diagnosed with it in 2008. It took doctors eight years to make the diagnosis.

“A delayed diagnosis prevents critical treatment which gives a cancer more time to destroy a person’s body,” McHose said. “Hap Rowan has been an inspiration for those battling a serious illness and we’re committed to preventing people from suffering the consequences of an undetected disease for several years.”

NET Cancer Awareness Day was first observed in 2010. It is represented by a zebra-striped ribbon because medical students are often taught: “When you hear the sound of hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.” NET cancer advocates want them to look for zebras in order to detect sleeper diseases like NET cancer earlier.

            “Hap Rowan has done so much to educate us, as legislators, to this relatively unknown cancer and it has become one of his life’s passions to raise awareness to it to not only aid in treatment, but in the hope of one day finding a cure,” Oroho said. “Hap and his wife, Mary, have demonstrated great courage in his battle with NET cancer and we’re gratified to help in the overall educational effort.”

            SJR-12 has already been approved by the state Senate. Both resolutions await action by the full Assembly.