Posted by: Kathy | July 5, 2009

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors…Meaningless

A risk factor is something that can affect your chance of getting a certain disease. There are risk factors for every disease, and sometimes diseases can be treated very early or even prevented based on the identification of risk factors.

The American Cancer Society lists risk factors for many different cancers, and there are certain types of cancer that are treatable when found early and people are able to survive and live cancer free. Risk factors are important and knowing what the risk factors are for a certain disease can save someone’s life. But my experience, or more accurately my mom’s experience, with pancreatic cancer led to the title of this blog and my feeling that risk factors for pancreatic cancer are basically meaningless.

On my pancreatic cancer facts page I listed the risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Given how deadly pancreatic cancer is and the fact that it’s often not diagnosed at a time when it’s still treatable, knowing the risk factors for pancreatic cancer should be important. I looked at this list when my mom was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I looked at it again when I typed it into my blog page. I look at it now as I write this post. Each time I look at this list, the same question comes to mind. Why did my mom die from pancreatic cancer?

Of the 11 risk factors on the list, my mom had only one – age; she was 64 years old when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. One. Only one. And this is where my anger and frustration come in. My mom died from pancreatic cancer less than a year after she was diagnosed and she only had one risk factor for this disease. So it seems to me that even if we did know the risk factors for pancreatic cancer before my mom was diagnosed, it wouldn’t have really mattered. How could we have known, guessed, that my mom would develop pancreatic cancer based on one single risk factor, and one as simple as age? How many Americans are currently 64 years old? How many of these people will get pancreatic cancer or any type of cancer?

I’ve cried over this, gotten angry because of it, probably thrown something because of that anger, and screamed over and over again, if only in my head, WHY? Because it’s not like things all fell into place here to explain why my mom was stricken with pancreatic cancer. My mom ate well, usually low-fat foods and lots of fruits and vegetables, she exercised almost every day, never smoked, drank a glass of wine only occasionally, and as far as I know was a healthy person. She had no true risk factors for pancreatic cancer, yet this disease took over her life, and then took it away.

I don’t understand it. I can’t understand it. There is no reasonable or logical explanation as to why my mother developed pancreatic cancer. But since it’s such a horrible and deadly disease, I understand why she died.

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