A Look At Pancreatic Cancer: Local Radio Host In Stage 4 Battle

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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A day after the stunning announcement by a popular local radio host that he has stage four pancreatic cancer, many are wondering about the disease.

Mary Bubala takes a closer look at the symptoms and possible breakthroughs in treatment.

WBAL’s Ron Smith was diagnosed Friday with stage four pancreatic cancer. The tumor was caught on a CAT scan. 

“A few weeks I had been feeling not well, and that started me looking for the reason,” Smith said.

Steve Jobs lived with a different form of pancreatic cancer for years, dying earlier this month. And it was actor Patrick Swayze who died just a year after his stage four pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Pancreatic cancer is tough to detect and difficult to treat.

“Stage four means metastatic cancer. That it has moved from the local area of the pancreas to elsewhere in the body such as the liver,” said Dr. Schraeder, St. Joseph Medical Center oncologist.

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include nausea, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss, abdominal pain and jaundice.

The statistics are not good when it comes to pancreatic cancer. Sixty percent of all newly diagnosed patients come in with stage four cancer.

Life expectancy after a stage four diagnosis is about a year. But in a clinical trial at St. Joseph Medical Center, they’re seeing progress in prolonging survival by using traditional chemotherapy with targeted therapy.

“Fifteen years ago we really only had one chemotherapy drug to use, and now we have five or six choices, so progress has been slow, but we have seen some improvements even in treating stage four disease,” Schraeder said.”Recently there have been some new regiments that have shown a doubling of, close to a doubling of survival.”

Right now there’s no screening test for pancreatic cancer. Researchers are working on a blood test but it is a long way off.

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