Local family spreads awareness on World Pancreatic Cancer Day
HASTINGS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Thursday is world pancreatic cancer day.
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all major cancers. And tonight, one local family wants to share their story to raise awareness.
Pancreatic cancer is the third highest cause of cancer-related death in the United States, but it's one we don't hear a lot about.
Because of how deadly it can be, families of those who have fought it say we should talk about it more.
Lauren Silverman passed out purple ribbons Thursday at Magnum Care, in Hastings.
She's raising awareness for the disease her mother Sandy bravely fought for three years, before passing away this past October.
Pancreatic cancer took Sandy's life, but never her spirit.
Even in her final days, she toasted wine with friends in her hospital bed.
"And it's that positive attitude and that zest for life that kept her going," said Silverman.
Dr. Gitonga Munene, a surgical oncologist at West Michigan Cancer Center says pancreatic cancer's deadly reputation keeps many silent.
"There's a sense that when you get a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer that there's little hope," Dr. Muene said.
Symptoms can include yellowish skin or eyes, and significant weight loss. But sometimes, it presents as simple abdominal pain.
"The doctor thought maybe its a was a gastritis sort of thing, and gave her some medication, but it didn't go away," Silverman said.
Dr. Munene says the lack of definitive symptoms is what makes this so dangerous, and why awareness on world pancreatic cancer day and everyday is so important.
"It's really very vague symptoms, so it's challenging sometimes to make the diagnosis early," he said.
Silverman says her mother advocated for herself and knew her body--lessons she's hoping to pass on to others in her mother's honor.
Today, her co-workers are wearing purple in Silverman's honor.
"I'm just pleased to be able to honor her on this day, and everybody else that's gone through it and is going through it," she said.
Dr. Munene says he's working on developing a pancreatic cancer symposium here in West Michigan, with the purpose of bringing state of the art treatments here, and talking about how the West Michigan Cancer Center can do better.