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Searching for a Cure

By: Cathleen Moxley Email
By: Cathleen Moxley Email

Many are mourning the loss of movie star Patrick Swayze who died Monday after a 20 month battle with pancreatic cancer.

According to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, it's one of the most fatal cancers, and a cure has yet to be found.

It's a disease Nik Shah, MD, the director of medical oncology at Camden Clark Memorial Hospital, says has symptoms like weight loss and worsening of blood sugar, but they don't show up in the early stages.

"Unfortunately there's nothing you can start looking for sooner, because to make a diagnosis of early cancer of the pancreas you need a cat scan," Dr. Shah said.

He says a five year survival rate is 20 percent if treatment is given.

"The treatment principals are very simple. If you're diagnosed in an early stage, then surgery is the treatment of choice," Dr. Shah said.

It's tough news to hear for anyone affected, and the diagnosis can be hard on the oncologist too.

"How do you break the bad news to the patients and the families? That's an art. You can never perfect it, but that's the hard part of the job," Dr. Shah said.


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