Pancreatic cancer: Hard to diagnose, even harder to treat


Pancreatic Cancer’s physical symptoms are not very specific to the disease. They include fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite. Pat was often tire in October but was gaining weight despite trying to lose it. Diagnosis depends on imaging procedures, such as CT or PET scans or endoscopic ultrasound, but these tests cannot detect small, early-stage of the cancer. One of the reasons it is so hard to detect is because of the way the pancreas is situated, and it doesn’t cause symptoms. By the end of October, Pat was reporting a peculiar, very tender spot just at the join of her sternum and in the hollow under it as well as a “clawing” pain beneath her left should blade. She thought it might be her heart. Lumps in her foot were of more concern.  Visited our doctor November 4th and he was more concerned with the lumps in the legs and sent her to the vein clinic.  That’s when they discovered the blood clots. So, it was right over to Emergency. The emergency doctor was puzzled at why she was having blood clots. He couldn’t see anything in a chest X-ray.  She was put on anti clotting medications. With all this nobody thought to give her a CT scan.  The cancer was too far advanced for effective treatment.

On the 48th anniversary of our first date Pat accidentally took a 10 mg Allegro pill instead of a blood pressure pill and thereby took a total 25 mm Allegro. WHEN TO emergency where during the examination the nurse practitioner detected that there was something funny about her pancreas and ordered a CT scan. Pat had an advanced case of the disease, as the cancer had spread to his liver. Pat was dying!  Doctor said she had two to six months to live. She didn’t make the two months. She died on January 7, 2017.

Why am I rehashing all this now?  Pat wrote “I haven’t really recovered – perhaps never will. To Eric it was a terrible blow. Maybe he’ll never recover, either.”  I think she is right I keep going over it in my mind. Seems to me few cancers need more awareness or research money than pancreatic cancer. While supporters wear purple ribbons during its awareness month of November, they have seen few medical advances in the last 40 years. Stuck with a five-year survival rate, it remains hard to detect, difficult to treat and, compared with other diseases, has drawn little research money. We need a simple blood test for pancreatic cancer like the one for prostate cancer where a positive would trigger tests such as CT or PET scans or endoscopic ultrasound. I understand pancreatic cancer is treatable when caught early; the vast majority of cases are not diagnosed until too late. Five-year survival rates approach 25% if the cancers are surgically removed while they are still small and have not spread to the lymph nodes. I guess what I’m saying is instead of just wearing a purple ribbon in November raise lots of funds. Almost everyone knows someone who has died from pancreatic cancer.  More research is desperately needed.

About thebows99krug

Hi, I am Eric, a retired librarian. I was born in St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto and raised in the downtown area north of the Art Gallery, south of the University of Toronto. I went to Orde Street Public School, Harbord C.I., University College at the UofT and the UofT's Faculty of Library and Information Science. I meet my wife Patricia at FLIS; our first date was on November 15, 1968. We were engaged February 14, 1969 and married on June 21, 1969. Our family includes son, James; daughter-in-law, Erin; (both writers), grand-daughters, Vivian and Eleanor; and Pooka, a small but fierce gray tabby. I would like to hear from any other class of '63 alumni of Harbord C.I. and class of '67 alumni of UofT's University College.
This entry was posted in Family, Grief, Pancreatic cancer, Religion, Religion - Anglican. Bookmark the permalink.

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