MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - April is Minority Cancer Awareness month and one disease that disproportionately affects African American patients is Pancreatic cancer.
71 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer die within the first year of diagnosis.
The pancreas sits at the back of the abdomen and it has two functions, it makes insulin to control our blood sugars and it also makes enzymes that digest our food.
Dr. Stephen Behrman is the chairman of surgery at Baptist Memorial Hospital.
He said some high-risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include obesity, smoking and diabetes.
Among the survivors is his former patient Annette Wiggins.
She hadn’t heard of pancreatic cancer before her diagnosis.
I didn’t know there was such thing as pancreatic cancer,” she told WMC Action News 5.
Kosten Foundation research shows African Americans are 67 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
Behrman said one reason includes access to quality health care.
He said many times African American patients are referred to a team that regularly treats pancreatic cancer.
“Doctors are the last thing that we want to go to, but we need to,” said Wiggins.
Treatment includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy and surgery.
“The reason behind that is to destroy as much of the cancer that’s growing in the pancreas, as we can before we operate because those the patients that have the highest cure rate,” said Behrman.
Wiggins is nearly three years cancer-free and advocates for pancreatic cancer awareness through a yearly event called Each One Teach One.
“I believe that I was diagnosed so we could get the word out that there is something out there that is tearing down our community. And we need to know more about what it is and what he does, she said.