MADISON (WKOW) -- The death of actor Patrick Swayze is putting pancreatic cancer research in the spotlight.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
It has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers: 95 percent of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis. Tammy Andries of Waunakee is one of a small percentage of people, who survived to tell the tale.. and fight on.
When Andries was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her first thoughts were not of herself, but of her children.
Andries says, "Until I had time to process it, and think about my three small children who at the time were 4, 6, and 8 and think about the fact that if I died tomorrow: would they remember their mom? Your mind goes through so many things."
Andries visited the emergency room twice for back pain, before a CT scan showed a tumor on her pancreas.
She says, "Thankfully I had an extraordinary surgeon who did a great job, and because of her, it's been four years and one week so, it's amazing."
Most stories don't end like Andries.
Amy Jordan's dad, Dewey, only had seven months to live after a picture was taken.
Jordan says, there's a reason she got involved in the fight against the cancer. "I can never remember him taking a sick day in his entire life. To have him be sick and to have no early detection screenings for pancreatic cancer, and instead to be faced with a stage four diagnosis."
There is no early screening for pancreatic cancer and few early symptoms.
Dr. Emily Winslow, Associate Professor of Surgery at UW Health, says, "We've made a lot of progress in ten years in taking out tumors safely.... But the problem is, for the majority of patients, it's not at that point when they know, that we can take the tumor out. It's too late for that."
Progress may be hampered, by little funding. In 2008, the National Cancer institute spent about 2 percent of a $4.8 billion dollar research budget on pancreatic cancer.
Andries says, "Just to raise awareness about the disease, it's deadly. We need more dollars and more people involved to help us."
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. The local chapter is holding a fundraiser that month, called Jazz for Hope. For more information, click on the link to the left of this story.
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