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Mayoral proclamation raises awareness of pancreatic cancer

Tomorrow has been designated as World Pancreatic Cancer Day in the City of Russellville, and a few local women were the driving force behind the proclamation.

According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in 2016 there will be approximately 53,070 people in the U.S. diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; of this number, almost 42,000 will die. Seventy-on percent will die within the first year after diagnosis.

Dealing with a loved one’s death caused by this disease is what spurred Debbie King and Vickie Bragwell to reach out in support of one another and to get involved in spreading awareness of pancreatic cancer.

King’s husband Mark was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Jan. 17, 2014. Until the week preceding the diagnosis, Debbie said, he had no symptoms except weight loss. Mark underwent surgery and chemotherapy over the next six months. “He did well until late August 2014, when a scan showed an enlarged bile duct and he was sent for a procedure to determine the problem,” Debbie said. In the emergency surgery that followed, it was discovered the cancer had spread. Mark King passed away Oct. 27, 2014 – just eight months after being diagnosed.

Eddie Bragwell lost his life to pancreatic cancer even more quickly. Wife Vickie said the only symptom was a knot that came up on her husband’s neck around Thanksgiving 2012. He was treated with an antibiotic, but his condition worsened until finally bone cancer was considered as a diagnosis. He deteriorated quickly after a choking incident sent him to the ER; after only one week of radiation, Eddie passed away Dec. 21, 2012

The exact causes of pancreatic cancer, Debbie explained, are not yet well understood. Certain risk factors, however, have been identified: smoking, family history of pancreatic or other cancers, diabetes and diet high in consumption of red or processed meats.

Symptoms can include abdomen or back pain, loss of appetite, jaundice, weight loss, nausea, changes in stool or recent onset diabetes.

Just this year, according to the PCAN, pancreatic cancer moved from the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. to the third, surpassing breast cancer. It is the only major cancer with a five-year relative survival rate in the single digits, at 8 percent. The incidence of this aggressive cancer is only increasing, and treatment options remain relatively limited both in terms of variety and successfulness.