|Thursday, December 01, 2011 – Robert Lang|
|It’s the tenth leading cause of cancer, and the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation.
It is pancreatic cancer, a disease which has stricken WBAL’s Ron Smith, who announced his retirement from the airwaves this week due to his illness.
“Typically a patient with (advanced) pancreatic cancer such as Ron’s, the survival is a frightening three to six months from the time of diagnosis,” Dr. Daniel Laheru told WBAL News.
Laheru has treated Ron Smith for the last six weeks, and he co-directs the pancreatic cancer treatment and research at the Kimmel Cancer Center of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Ron’s wife June, the rest of his family, his friends and WBAL colleagues have formed Team Reason which is raising money for the cancer center.
Unlike breast, colon or prostate cancer, there is no test to determine if a patient has the disease, until it is in the very advanced stages.
Laheru ultrasound can detect the disease when it is in the advanced stages.
Laheru says the ultrasound which looks at the length of the pancreas is “very invasive” and it cannot detect the cancer early enough to stop it.
“There are no early detection measures at this point,” Laheru told WBAL News, who notes that it is frustrating.
“This is a cancer…that is typically identified very late.”
Laheru says researchers are encouraged that a test and effective treatment can be developed.
He says the cancer can be treated with surgery if detected early enough.
Laheru adds chemotherapy can be used to control the disease and prolong the patient’s life.
Last month, Smith announced that he was ending his chemotherapy treatments after consulting with his doctors.
He began home hospice care this week.
Laheru says that researchers are optimistic that effective early detection and treatments can be developed.
“There are a lot of people who are working to identify better blood markers for early detection of pancreas cancer…so I think we are making progress,” Laheru told WBAL News.
“Unfortunately these things take time, and we were not quick enough to get these things for Ron and June.”
CLICK HERE to donate to Team Reason.