'Anybody can get pancreatic cancer:' Local expert talks about the risk factors and symptoms of the disease

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MILWAUKEE (CBS58) --Many say Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a woman of courage and dignity. She spent years fighting for women’s rights and working to eliminate gender-based stereotypes. In 2009, she began her own personal fight against pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg passed away 11 years later.

“She was a beacon of hope for so many people because she did survive so long," Holly Ignatowski said. She is the Co-Affiliate Chair with the Milwaukee Affiliate, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

"The five year survival rate for cancer is only 10 percent so she really beat those odds."

Ignatowski tells me the disease can stem from a number of things, like smoking, diabetes, or even family history.  She also mentioned that the disease does not discriminate..

“Anybody can get any pancreatic cancer, my mom had no history of any kind of cancer in her family and she died of the disease. "

Pancreatic cancer starts in the organ lying behind the lower part of the stomach. Symptoms don’t really show up in the early stages. However, in the later stages someone with the disease will experience a lack of appetite and weigh loss.

Ginsburg went to the doctor for a normal check-up, while she was there, she was diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer and she had no symptoms.

“Pancreatic cancer is a very devious, aggressive form of cancer," Ignatowski said.

That’s why Ignatowski says it’s better to catch the disease early on when it’s more treatable, which is what her network is doing now.

“The Pancreatic Action Network is leading the charge for the early detection initiative so we can come up with a test to find it early."

She says it's important to make sure you know what’s going on with your body and if something really doesn’t feel right, go to your doctor.


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