North Texas

Methodist Dallas Patient Survives Pancreatic Cancer

A North Texas man diagnosed with the same kind of cancer that killed singer Aretha Franklin says more about the deadly disease is being learned in North Texas.

A publicist said Thursday that "Franklin's official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type. That's the same kind of cancer Sal Suarez was diagnosed with a year and a half ago.

When he was diagnosed he had no symptoms and no family history of the disease. Doctors happened to spot the tumor on his pancreas during an office visit.

"I was gonna go have a colonoscopy and my surgeon said let me do an endoscopy and when they did and put that camera they were able to spot and discover a spot on my pancreas," Suarez said.

Advancements in treatment are improving the outcomes for patients whose cancer is caught early.

Dr. Alejandro Mejia with Methodist Dallas said new standards of therapies involve chemotherapy and radiation to shrink tumors so they can be surgically removed.

There are also chemical trials for new drugs and new minimally invasive surgeries to remove tumors and get patients back on their feet more quickly.

Early detection is the key and that can be difficult when it comes to cancer in the pancreas.

"It's a silent disease, sometimes especially when it starts. If it starts in part of the pancreas that won't give you any symptoms until it's too advanced," Mejia said.

Mejia was able to completely remove Suarez's tumor and he is now cancer free. His victory is now hope.

"With this new technology that we have it's amazing. I feel so fortune that I was able to find it in time and have a good prognosis," Suarez said. "[I] thank God every day that I was able to beat the odds.

Diagnosing pancreatic cancer in time for surgery can increase a patient's survival by about 10-fold.  To learn more about the program at Methodist Dallas, click here.

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center also has a pancreatic cancer prevention program for people who are considered high risk.

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