Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day: What You Need To Know
I lost my grandfather, Norbert, and my uncle, Mike, from pancreatic cancer.
Diane Rambousek stopped by the studio this morning. She lost her brother, Michael, to pancreatic cancer, too.
Not only did she bring me a nice plate of purple cookies, but she also brought along some information for our listeners pertaining to this deadly disease and what we need to know about it.
Diane mentioned that purple is the color used to raise awareness for this disease, so if you see people wearing it this month it may be due to their experience with it. The Michael W. Oglesby Foundation was named after her late brother, who succumbed to the disease at the age of 52, after a 2-month battle.
He was first diagnosed with a blood clot (which is not an uncommon indicator), and several weeks later experienced some abdominal pain. After a few scans, he was given the heartbreaking diagnosis of having stage-4 pancreatic cancer.
Diane said prior to this, he was a very active person. Michael participated in Ragbrai for 10 consecutive years, was physically fit, didn't smoke or drink, wasn't overweight, didn't have diabetes... a lot of the telltale signs leading up to a cancer diagnosis.
He was diagnosed in November and died in January... all in just 60 days.
Diane said after the fact, they learned both her uncle and possibly her grandmother both had it, so knowing your family history and genetics is very important.
Sadly, there is no screening study for pancreatic cancer. The day that Michael died, pancreatic cancer surpassed breast cancer to become the 3rd leading cause of cancer death in our country.
Through the work with the Michael W. Oglesby Foundation, their family is trying to help fund a screening study so people might have a better chance of finding it before it gets to stage four and give them a fighting chance. The cure rate is very low, so they'd also like to see a better treatment plan for it.
Diane is a nurse practitioner, so I asked her for any signs we might want to look out for.
It's a silent cancer, so for a lot of people, they're not aware of it until it's almost too late. Diane said if possible, learn your family history so you're aware of it possible running in your genetics.
I asked what causes this type of cancer, and Diane said unfortunately, we really don't know.
A lot of people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer first experience some back pain, due to the fact that the pancreas lies closer to your back near the liver. If you realize you're experiencing constant back pain, it's definitely time to call your doctor's office. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
If you experience a sudden weight loss, it's another good sign it's time to call the doctor. The pancreas helps with digestion and insulin production, so a rapid weight loss could be another good sign.
I asked Diane about current treatments, and she said aggressive chemotherapy is one of the steps. Another is the Whipple procedure, where doctors bypass some of the common bile ducts and remove some of the pancreas.
The Michael W. Oglesby Foundation is also aligned with the World Pancreatic Coalition. Together they are helping to raise awareness for this disease. The 3rd Thursday of November is World Pancreatic Day.
Since Michael died in 2016, the city of Dubuque, Marion, and Cedar Rapids have all issued proclamations declaring this as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day in our city.
The foundation, rather than helping individuals, is focused on supporting the research side of this disease. If we know what we're dealing with, we can then develop better treatments to fight it. The money raised is being given to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, which has a pancreatic task force, full of surgeons and researchers who are working hard to figure out what's triggering this disease.
Be sure to watch for the Michael W. Oglesby Foundation 5k event every July... just one of the ways you can help.