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Death Of Apple Innovator Brings Awareness To Pancreatic Cancer

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Doctors say Steve Jobs was fortunate. He lived with pancreatic cancer for nearly seven years–much longer than most.

As Andrea Fujii explains, most diagnoses usually come too late.

The world saw Jobs wither away as he battled pancreatic cancer. 

Howard County local Jim Epperlein has survived the same rare form: a neuroendocrine tumor on his pancreas. 

“It’s the only type of tumor that is actually curative if it’s discovered early enough,” said Epperlein, pancreatic cancer survivor. 

Dr. Mike Didolkar of Sinai Hospital says it’s a less aggressive form but potentially fatal nonetheless. 

“In general, pancreatic cancer is one of the most serious cancers among all the cancers,” Didolkar said. 

The pancreas sits right behind the stomach.  It produces insulin and is essential in the digestive process. Advances in treatment aren’t keeping up with new cases– up to 900 per year in Maryland. 

The main risk factors include a family history of pancreatic cancer and smoking. 

Symptoms include persistent abdominal pain that leads to back pain and jaundice. 

“By the time the back pain occurs in pancreatic cancer, the cancer may have progressed considerably,” Didolkar said.

Just as Jobs brought the world technological advances, Epperlein says he’s left the gift of pancreatic cancer awareness.

“We don’t have survivors. We don’t have alumni. We don’t have celebrities who survive this deadly disease,” Epperlein said. 

The survival rate for the type of pancreatic cancer Jobs had is five years.  But since there’s no early detection techniques, doctors say once most patients are diagnosed, they have about 18 months to live. 

The sixth annual Purple Stride walk/run, a fundraiser supporting pancreatic cancer research, is this Sunday at Oregon Ridge Park. Click here for more information.

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