Cancer continues to adversely affect us

Published 6:46 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

It seems to be all too common these days — young lives taken way too soon by cancer.

This week, another person I knew succumbed to the deadly disease that has affected most of us in one way or another, either to our own health or those we know.

Pancreatic cancer was the culprit that took the life of the 53-year-old man who seven weeks ago looked to be the picture of health. He was losing weight and trying to eat healthier. His friends told him how great he was looking with the weight loss.

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But around Christmas, he thought he had a case of the flu with stomach pains. Refused to got the doctor and diagnosed himself with diverticulitis — something he dealt with in the past.

Finally, friends forced him to go to the emergency room around the first of the year. That’s when an ER doctor gave him the bad news following a CT scan.

He was admitted to the hospital but the cancer had already spread. Doctors believe it could have been spreading for a year.

Cancer is an awful disease and pancreatic cancer is perhaps one of the worst.

It is aggressive with few symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, and jaundice. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but survival rate is very low and the cases are on the rise.

According to, more than 56,700 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. That’s a 2 percent increase from last year.

The five-year survival rate from pancreatic cancer remains stagnant at 9 percent. And deaths from pancreatic cancer surpassed breast cancer a few years ago. By 2020, it is expected to surpass colorectal caner as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, just behind lung cancer.

Pancreatic cancer, if detected early enough, can be removed by surgery and in many cases, cured. They key is early detection.

It is hard to find early since the pancreas is deep inside the body and symptoms usually don’t present themselves until the cancer has spread to other organs. Although there are no screening tests currently available to the general public, there are tests for the disease.

There are some ways to reduce the risk, however. Stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight and choose a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables.

My friend’s loss has encouraged me to become healthier, and get a checkup from a doctor — something we all should do once we get to a certain age.

I also encourage you to take advantage of health events, such as the free one Merit Health River Region is hosting today. Don’t wait until it’s too late to decide you need to make some lifestyle changes to live healthier. 

Rob Sigler is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at