The Color Purple: Raising Awareness of Pancreatic Cancer

Author: Jennifer Gnerlich, MD, UMC Surgical Oncologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery at LSU Health New Orleans

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While pink may be the rage in October, we find ourselves turning to purple in November to support pancreatic cancer awareness. While not a common cancer, the amount of people affected is increasing every year with an expected 55,500 to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year.

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The hardest part about pancreatic cancer is that there is no screening test, no blood work or X-ray to detect this cancer at an early stage. Instead, every person needs to be aware of warning signs that can suggest they might be at risk for having pancreatic cancer. These warning signs include:

  • Skin or the whites of eyes turning yellow
  • Upper belly/stomach pain or back pain that does not get better with medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Indigestion or a bad stomach ache that does not get better with antacids
  • Unexplained weight loss when there has been no change in diet or exercise
  • New diagnosis of diabetes late in life

 

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While a person at any age can be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are between the ages of 55 and 85 years old. If you are diagnosed with diabetes late in life and have no other risks factors for it (obesity, eating food high in sugar/carbs), you may want to ask your doctor if you are at risk for pancreatic cancer.

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Along with having no good screening test, there are only two ways to actively prevent the disease. The main one is to stop any tobacco smoking. Through research, we have now learned that smoking is the number one thing a person can do to prevent pancreatic cancer. The second thing is to maintain a normal weight. Obesity is also associated with pancreatic cancer, so make sure to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Also, try to eat healthy with normal sized food portions. A good way to cut out sugar in your life is to remove all juice and soda. Try to drink water, tea (unsweetened), or coffee (no cream or sugar).

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To raise support and awareness for pancreatic cancer, the LSU Foundation is sponsoring the first flagship team in Louisiana. PurpleStride takes place on Sunday, November 4th at 8:00am at City Park. Please consider signing up for Team LSU/UMC – Purple Reign. Registration is free with the discount code FLAGSHIP. Click here to register.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) hosts PurpleStride all over the nation, but we are lucky enough to have it in New Orleans this year! Please help us reach our goal by joining the team or donating. Money raised goes for patient support, research, and advocacy in Washington DC. Have your voice heard to wage hope against this disease because we need YOU!

About Dr. Gnerlich

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Dr. Gnerlich is a board-certified surgical oncologist specializing in upper gastrointestinal cancers in the pancreas, bile ducts, liver, stomach, esophagus and retroperitoneal sarcomas. Dr. Gnerlich is excited about bringing new procedures like HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) to UMC for patients with certain types of cancer that have spread throughout the abdomen.

To make an appointment with Dr. Gnerlich or one of our cancer specialists, please contact (504)702-3697 or (504) 702-5700.

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