Pancreatic Cancer The Silent Killer

By Ronald G. Rios
Middlesex County Freeholder Chairperson, Committee of Public Health and Education

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and I would like to ask each of you to take the time to learn about, and help raise awareness of, this devastating disease.

Middlesex County has been working on raising awareness of the disease throughout 2009. The Freeholder Board and the Middlesex County Department of Public Health sponsored a walk in June that attracted more than150 participants and raised $1,600 for Pancreatic Cancer research. It was held in conjunction with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.


Last month, I toured the Cancer Institute with officials from the County Health Department and we discussed with Cancer Institute officials ways our two organizations could work together to raise awareness, educate and better serve our residents.

This is the second column I have written on pancreatic cancer because it’s an issue I feel very passionate about: My mother died of the disease in 1995 and I saw firsthand the devastating affect it had on her and our entire family.

Though perhaps not as prevalent in the media as some other forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer is no less deadly. It is diagnosed in more than 29,000 Americans every year, and is the fourth leading cancer killer among men and women in the United States.

Pancreatic Cancer is known as the silent killer because it can be difficult to detect in its early stages. Its symptoms have been known to mimic those of other illnesses and can include: pain in the upper stomach or back, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, rapid weight loss, fatigue, yellow skin or eyes, and dark urine (jaundice).

Of course these particular symptoms may not be signs of pancreatic cancer, so I urge you to consult your doctor if you experience one or more of the symptoms. Early detection can be key with any potential health condition.
According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer can be increased by factors such as age, gender, race, smoking, diet, diabetes, long-term inflammation of the pancreas, cirrhosis of the liver, having too much stomach acid or having the bacteria H. pylori and family medical history.

People who smoke increase their risk of this cancer by two to three times. It is also important to eat a healthy diet, exercise, manage your diabetes, be aware of your family history and maintain annual check-ups with your doctor.

Education and early prevention are the keys to controlling the number of fatalities from pancreatic and other forms of cancer. Won’t you help us by educating yourself and your loved ones? The more information that is shared, the better we are armed to fight this battle.

For additional information about pancreatic or other cancers, please visit the following Web sites:

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