2975 Westchester Avenue, Suite G02, Purchase, NY 10577
How Early Diagnosis Can Save Lives THE LUCKIEST UNLUCKY SITUATION
The holiday season is a time to be with family, and this year especially, I am grateful to have my family members with me. Just last month, my mother-in-law, Karen, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis was a huge shock. In late October, she started to suffer from vague abdominal symptoms. When she went in for a check-up, the doctor noticed she looked a little yellow, so they ordered some tests. The doctor suspected a gallstone blockage, but instead, they found a tumor.
an important step in catching cancer early is awareness. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center warns patients to be aware of the following risk factors when looking out for pancreatic cancer:
• Age: Almost 90 percent of pancreatic cancer cases occur in people aged 55 and older.
• Race and ethnicity: African-Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than Asian-Americans, Caucasians, or Hispanics.
THE GREATEST GIFT WE CAN HAVE IS THE HEALTH OF OUR LOVED ONES. “
This was a severe blow to our family. Karen has been healthy all her life, and she’s the sort of person who’s always vibrant and full of energy. Hearing she had pancreatic cancer was a chilling experience. Though I’d been exposed to many patients with cancer during medical school and residency, it is a completely different situation when it hits so close to home. In all the terrible news, there was one silver lining: The cancer had not yet spread far beyond the pancreas.
• Obesity: Individuals with a body mass index of 30 or higher have a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to recent evidence. • Diabetes: Having Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, and in some people, the sudden onset of Type 2 diabetes may have been caused by pancreatic cancer.
• Chronic pancreatitis
Being located where it was, the tumor compressed her bile duct, and that is why her
• Tobacco use: Between 20–30 percent of all pancreatic
complexion turned yellow. Without the jaundice, this tumor, like most pancreatic cancers, would have gone undetected until it was very advanced. It is the luckiest of unlucky situations. Fortunately, an operation was still possible. Additionally, she happens to live in NewYork, allowing her access to one of the best cancer treatment facilities in the world —Memorial Sloan Kettering. Within a week of her diagnosis, Karen was in the operating room, being treated. When people hear the words “pancreatic cancer,” they interpret it as an immediate death sentence. Most of the time, they’re right. Only 1 in 5 pancreatic tumors are operable, which means 80 percent of patients are diagnosed with a case so advanced there’s nothing even the best doctors in the world can do about it. That said, if you are able to catch it early enough, as we were lucky to in this situation, there is hope. Understandably, we cannot visit our doctor everyweek and go through all the tests searching for cancer, nor should we. Existing in constant fear of cancer is no way to lead a healthy life. However,
cancers have been linked to smoking cigarettes.
The greatest gift we can have is the health of our loved ones. Karen’s operation was a success, and she was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family. While she’s not out of the woods yet, she has a fighting chance, and for that, we are incredibly grateful. It is a reminder that, even in the most troubling of times, hope is possible. If you believe you may be at risk for cancer — pancreatic or otherwise — then, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, I encourage you to see a doctor and get tested. An early diagnosis might save your life.
Happy holidays to you all. May you and your loved ones find good health and happiness in the newyear.
Dr. Harrison L insky Westchester Office • 914-251-0313
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