Surviving The Death Sentence - How My Mother Survived Pancreatic Cancer

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And some don't show up the next year. Wyman knows that her fight isn't over. Someday, the cancer will come back, "it's just a matter of when and where. Grace Schneider: ; gschneider courierjournal. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www. Some warning signs and symptoms include pain or cramping in the upper abdomen and back; yellowish color in eyes and skin jaundice ; loss of appetite or weight loss; sudden onset of diabetes or changes in blood-sugar control by a person who is diabetic; blood clots; and frequent nausea, indigestion and vomiting.

Doctors diagnose the cancer with a biopsy of the tumor, blood test, CT scan, ultrasounds and endoscopy. Obesity and tobacco use are two lifestyle factors. Most people who are over age 50, and African Americans and men, in general, have a slightly elevated risk. Shelly Wyman, a Jeffersontown mother of three, was diagnosed at age 45 with pancreatic cancer. She's survived beyond five years, which is rare for those with the cancer. Second, surgery does no good if the tumor has already spread. Or if cancer cells at the margin of the tumor remain behind and later spread. Truty was particularly interested in the 35 percent of stage III pancreatic cancer patients who show no signs of metastasis but are not considered for surgery because the tumor involves too many veins, arteries and other tissues.

They are usually given chemotherapy alone, and survival frequently is less than a year.

Surviving The Death Sentence: How My Mother Survived Pancreatic Cancer

He went to the operating room, had major complications, never got chemotherapy, and died in my arms six months later. I see that same thing occur 25 years later, over and over and over. We keep doing the same thing and hope for a different result. Because his father had pancreatic cancer, Dr. Truty himself has an elevated risk. The first step in improving cancer treatment, Dr. Truty decided, was switching to more effective chemotherapy drugs. They are multi-drug combinations shown in New England Journal of Medicine studies in and to be far more effective than older drugs. Truty also decided to prescribe his patients chemotherapy right away, rather than as a follow-up to surgery.

That way, the drugs would have a chance to shrink the tumor and hunt down cancer cells that had spread far away from the pancreas. Moreover, the four months or so of chemotherapy allowed his patients to get in better shape. Truty follows chemotherapy with radiation therapy, primarily to kill cancer cells at the site of the operation. That allows him to perform much more aggressive operations than were previously possible.

Truty performs surgery, including extensive procedures that few other doctors attempt. He reviews the operation with the other surgeons who will be involved and looks at models printed from CT scans on 3D printers.


The surgeries are marathon sessions, lasting up to 14 hours. During the procedure, Dr. Truty sends tumor samples to a pathologist who quick-freezes the tissue, slices it and examines it for cancer — a technique developed at Mayo Clinic. After surgery, Dr. Truty finishes with an additional round of chemotherapy. Each component of the therapy has a specific purpose. The result is a program that appears to be providing a genuine opportunity to cure pancreatic cancer. He visited his doctor, got a CT scan and MRI , and within a week received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

His doctor called Mayo Clinic, and a day later Richard met with Dr. Richard underwent the regimen of chemo, radiation and surgery. As he was about enter the operating room, Richard recalls Dr. After that, Richard had a final round of chemo. Nearly three-and-a-half years after his diagnosis, he is showing no signs of recurrence. In fact, he has been golfing regularly for the last two years.

Richard is one of more than patients Dr.

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Truty has treated over four years who make up a cohort for a study he plans to publish soon. All had stage III pancreatic cancer with large, entwined tumors that most surgeons would not consider trying to remove. All were treated with extensive chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and more chemotherapy in certain cases. Truty believes greater gains are possible.

To do that, Dr. Truty is looking for better scientific models that represent the actual patient. In his role as a researcher, Dr. Truty is growing tumors from human pancreatic cancer tissues in lab mice with weakened immune systems. These tumors are derived from the very patients he operates on.

Because the tumors are virtually indistinguishable from the tumors in the original patients, they provide ideal targets for drug testing. The mice also provide a way to identify protein biomarkers produced by the cancer tumors. The markers may someday be used to screen patients for cancer, as well as to determine which patients will response to specific chemotherapy regimens. Growing tumors in mice can predict the recurrence of cancer in humans. But, says Dr. Mayo Clinic is uniquely situated to support Dr. First, many people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer come to Mayo Clinic.

That provides an opportunity to develop and refine effective treatment. It also provides many variations of tumors for research. In Dr. George slaying the dragon.

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This image is also Dr. The writhing dragon represents cancer and looks a lot like a pancreas. Yet as much as cancer, Dr. Truty is also trying to slay pessimism.

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He hopes that someday soon, pancreatic cancer will be treated as a chronic disease and not a death sentence. We have data that people are living significantly longer. Tags: Cancer , Dr.

'How I Am Beating Pancreatic Cancer' | HuffPost Life

Mark Truty , Gastroenterology , Pancreatic Cancer. I was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer 3 weeks ago today. The only good news that my oncologist gave me was that there is a good stage IV and a bad stage IV. Anyone can get pancreatic cancer, and that's why we need everyone to join us in this important fight. This fall, I held a special dinner with a close group of friends to mark my five-year anniversary. These friends have been incredible and I couldn't have gotten through this without them. I know I was very lucky to catch this disease early, and to work with a great medical team to get the right treatment at the right time.

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But my wonderful support network was there to remind me that I was not alone in this fight. It has been said that the five-year mark is considered a success in battling this disease.

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But I am not waiting for my doctors to tell me I am cured. I tell myself I am cured, because I am looking forward to a very fulfilling life ahead and I plan to be around for a long time. I made sure that I maintained my positive outlook at every moment in this five-year process. I have a lot to be thankful for this November. I am a living example that there is hope in beating the odds against pancreatic cancer. But we need to continue fighting for more research so that we can find a cure. I have hope we can. I am a competitor. And in the race against pancreatic cancer, I know together, we can win.

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