Alex Trebek's fight against pancreatic cancer thrust the illness into the national spotlight, but an Athens man has been waging his own battle against the disease.
Steve Smith was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on Sept. 27, 2018. On Monday, his fight was honored with a standing ovation at the Athens City Council meeting as Mayor Ronnie Marks presented him with a proclamation recognizing November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
At the same meeting, business owner and Athens resident Scott Marshall was also honored for his fight against bladder cancer. In a show of solidarity, Marshall took off his wool cap to show his head — like Smith's — was also bald after several rounds of chemotherapy.
Smith was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in June 2018. His wife, Teresa Smith, said her husband had been losing his appetite and experienced pain after he ate. He tried four different types of treatment for his diabetes, but the pain continued through the summer.
In late September of last year, he asked his internal medicine doctor if something else could be going on. Smith was sent to an emergency room where a CT scan was done. The diagnosis revealed pancreatic cancer, which had also spread to his liver and bones.
Smith soon began treatment at Clearview Cancer Institute.
“He has certainly beaten many odds,” Teresa Smith said of her husband. “He was told by his oncologist that he could possibly prolong his life for six to 18 months.”
The Smiths wanted Steve's cancer battle made public so others may recognize the symptoms and possibly save a life through early detection.
Pancreatic cancer often doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms in the early stages, which can make it hard to diagnose early. Symptoms can also be vague and may come and go, while the severity can also vary for each person. You may not have any or all of these symptoms.
It’s important to remember that symptoms can be caused by more common things. They can also be caused by conditions such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
Specific symptoms include:
• Abdominal and mid-back pain ;
• Unexplained weight loss ;
• Yellow skin or eyes ;
• Change in stool ;
• New-onset diabetes ;
• Digestive problems ;
• Loss of appetite ; and/or
• Mood change .
The cause of the majority of pancreatic cancer cases is unknown, but research studies have identified the following risk factors that may increase the likelihood someone will develop pancreatic cancer:
• Inherited genetic mutations ;
• Family history of pancreatic cancer ;
• Family history of other cancers ;
• Diabetes ;
• Pancreatitis (chronic and hereditary);
• Smoking ;
• Race (ethnicity) ;
• Age ; and
• Diet .
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is and the patient’s overall health. If possible, surgeons will remove the cancer, with most common operation being the Whipple procedure to remove all or part of the pancreas and other organs. Surgery is usually followed by chemotherapy.
For metastatic pancreatic cancer (spread to other parts of the body), treatment may include chemotherapy and occasionally radiotherapy too. A patient may also be offered treatment to relieve symptoms and the opportunity to join a clinical trial.
Visit https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer.html to learn more about the disease.