DES MOINES, -- After announcing his battle with pancreatic cancer in March, Alex Trebek has teamed up with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to bring awareness across the country during pancreatic cancer awareness month.
As one of the nation’s deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of just nine percent, it’s estimated that in 2019 pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in 56,770 people and will kill 45,750 of them.
Since there is no screening process to detect this form of cancer, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms which can be persistent.
According to Dr. Richard Deming, Medical Director at MercyOne Cancer Center, possible symptoms include persistent stomach pains, lower back pain, jaundice, and unexplained weight loss.
When Des Moines resident Pam Anderson noticed her extreme stomach pain, she immediately went to her doctor who immediately gave her an ultrasound.
“The ultrasound revealed a mass, immediately following that I had a CT scan, the next week I was in the surgeon’s office,” said Anderson.
Anderson’s cancer was caught at stage two, which is rare since it can be very difficult to detect. She has now been cancer-free for a little over four years but is urging others to be proactive.
“Early, early, early, you have got to catch it early there’s no other suggestion I can make to people,” said Anderson.
If someone is diagnosed, Dr. Deming says it’s important to be prepared with a good team of doctors.
"This is definitely a type of cancer that needs a multidisciplinary approach, not only expert surgeons and medical oncologists and radiation oncologist but also dietitians to help with managing your diet,” said Dr. Deming.
If someone has diabetes, is overweight, smokes, or has a family history of pancreatic cancer they are at higher risk, so getting checked if exhibiting symptoms is extremely important.
“The overwhelming likelihood is those symptoms are not pancreas cancer, but being aware of it, is number one,” said Dr. Deming.