Background of Personal Experience with Pancreatic Cancer

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Background of Personal Experience with Pancreatic Cancer
My family never knew that pancreatic cancer was such a deadly disease that can creep up on you, until my aunt, Cathy L. Usey, was diagnosed with it in Aug.2008. My aunt Cathy better known as Big Mama was a 13 year breast cancer survivor when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I know you're probably thinking the same thing my family was thinking "how could someone who had already survived a cancer be diagnosed with another cancer and a very deadly cancer at that." Big Mama was the backbone of our family, the life of the party, a giving as well as a very forgiving person no matter the circumstances. I could go on and on about this lovely lady we called Big Mama. She was a daughter, a mother of two sons, a stepmother, grandmother, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a best friend to many, a manager of employees who absolutely adored her. Anyone who crossed her path she greeted them with a smile and ALWAYS treated others with such respect & would give her shirt off her back to a stranger if they asked her for it. Unfortunately Cathy passed on May 17, 2009, but she didn't go without a fight, and we know she is watching us and guiding us to make a difference toward finding a cure for this horrific disease. Big Mama touched so many lives and it’s so hurtful that a disease like pancreatic cancer took this beautiful lady from us. It’s also hurtful that there is not that much research on pancreatic cancer as there is for other cancers. Cancer falls at #6 on the list of government funded research diseases, but it should be #1 due to how many lives it affects every second.

Pancreatic Cancer Brief
When someone is diagnosed with a severe illness such as pancreatic cancer, individuals become aware of the limits of their existence in terms of life years. For many, cancer is just another word for death especially those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic Cancer makes up 4% of all cancer deaths and has the lowest five year survival rate of all cancers. The overall prognosis for Pancreatic Cancer is very poor with the one year survival rate being approximately 20%. It is usually know as an almost incurable disease (Wakeman et al). Pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells grow out of control within the pancreas. All but 5% of pancreatic cancers are categorized as exocrine tumors. Exocrine tumors begin in exocrine cells that produce enzymes to aid in digestion. Most symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually are not present in early stages, hence the name “silent” disease. Usually by the time the symptoms become noticeable the cancer has reached an advanced stage. Some symptoms that are commonly associated with pancreatic cancer are: jaundice, pain in the upper abdomen or mid back, digestive difficulties, unexplained weight loss, change in stools, blood clots, etc. The only way to identify the exact diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is to do a biopsy on the tumor. Most patients with a positive diagnosis of pancreatic cancer are usually not candidates for surgery to remove the tumor; only about 15-20% patients are candidates. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are traditional methods used to treat the cancer cells from growing and dividing. However, there are a lot of side effects associated with chemo and radiation, and typically these treatments do not cure the disease but prolong life for the patient (PALS 2009).

Cancer & the people it affects
Cancer is an illness that affects the whole entire family. Three out of four families are affected by cancer and it has been predicted that about 30% of the US population will have cancer at some point in their lives (American Cancer Society). Counselors may be called upon not only to help the patient, but to help the entire family cope. Although there have been great strides in biomedical cancer research we have only come to the threshold of understanding cancers impact on...
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