Your Healthy Family

Nov 28, 2012 12:18 PM by Marissa Torres

Pancreatic Cancer: warning signs

It's a cancer we don't hear too much about. But despite a lack in awareness, Pancreatic Cancer is the deadliest cancer with a survival rate of just 6%. The scary part is, you usually don't know you're sick until it's too late.

For 5 long months, Brianne Stewart and Becky Cox watched as their mother fought for her life. At the age of 59, Pamela Rowe was diagnosed with stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer; a major blow to a woman they say, maintained a healthy life style. The tumor was so severe, it had spread across to her liver and lungs.

"Right before Thanksgiving, she [Pamela] kept looking at the Hospice bed, but she didn't want to go in it. She said, once I go in that bed, I know I'm not going to get out of it."

The sisters say Pamela quickly deteriorated, and all they could do was be there and make her comfortable.

"There are so few survivors, only 6% survive after 5 years of diagnosis. So there's no one that has lived with it to advocate for it, just us that are left behind," says Stewart.

Doctor Robert Hoyer, Director of Memorial Hospital's Cancer Center says he's seen countless cases walk through his door. He says the biggest challenge of Pancreatic Cancer is there's no known early detection strategy, so patients often present with a more advanced disease.

Surgery is the only known cure for Pancreatic Cancer, but unfortunately it's only an option for early stages. Once that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, liver, or lungs, only chemo or radiation can help.

"Only about 10% of patients have a genetic predisposition. But other risk factors include smoking, obesity, and diabetes," says Dr. Hoyer, "but a majority of cases of Pancreatic Cancer are what we call sporadic, no known direct cause."

It's for that reason research and medical trials are so critical and why two sisters are making a promise to educate everyone in the hopes of saving lives.

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