Does this article in Scientific American give us false hope, or could it be that at last researchers may be onto a way to detect symptoms of early stages of pancreatic cancer early enough to make a difference?
"The failure to detect pancreatic cancer until after it has progressed to a fatal stage has long been the bane of doctors and the demise of patients. Imaging the out-of-the-way organ with MRI or CT scans often fails to catch tumors and, so far, there are no reliable blood-based markers for the disease.
For most patients--including actor Patrick Swayze, who died this week as a result of this aggressive malignancy--abdominal pain, weight loss and jaundice are the disease's first indicators, and their onset usually occurs after the cancer has metastasized, erasing any possible benefit of surgery.
Approximately 42,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. Nearly all of them will succumb to the disease, 76 percent within the first year after diagnosis. Swayze managed to battle his cancer for 20 months, 12 more than the median survival time.
New hope for improved detection comes in the form of small RNA molecules called microRNAs. For pancreatic cancer, scientists have catalogued dozens of microRNAs whose levels are different than in healthy samples. Even if measuring microRNAs does not turn out to be sensitive enough for general screening, it would arm doctors with a great tool for screening at-risk individuals."
When a celebrity passes away, we the public feel we should be privy to any and all of the private pain and agony suffered throughout the illness. Just as in the case of Michael Landon, when Patrick Swayze's body could no longer fight the cancer in his pancreas, he left his body behind.
The hope that the article in Scientific American gives me is personal. My son-in-law spoke of pain in his lower back when we were all together for Thanksgiving. I told him that sounded like a kidney problem and suggested he see a doctor soon. He was a big strapping, handsome, athletic, intelligent young man. He and my daughter were expecting their first child. The baby was born the end of March, and three months later my son-in-law passed away. He had lost weight and had little energy and was unable to work at the time his son was born. That was seventeen years ago. He was twenty nine years old. Every time I read about someone in the public eye who loses the battle with pancreatic cancer, I hurt so much for their family and for thousands of others whose names are not known publicly but who are dying of this horrible disease, and their families. I know the researchers are working hard to eliminate all cancer, and I want so desperately to see the end of cancer in my lifetime.