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Pancreatic cancer: How the deadly disease affected two local women

Published: Nov. 10, 2020 at 8:23 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After the devastating news of Alex Trebek passing away from pancreatic cancer, we looked at how the disease is affecting people here at home and how deadly it is.

One local woman experienced first-hand how deadly this disease is when it took two of her family members.

Ebony Patterson-Harvey saw pancreatic cancer strike her family not once, but twice.

“My godfather lived exactly two months. My father lived exactly one month, and they died on the same day in January of 2007,” she said.

Her godfather was in his early 60′s, and her father was only 44 years old. Both men, with no prior health problems, died from the late stages of pancreatic cancer.

“My father, we went to see him in the hospital and one week he is up laughing and joking with us and the next week he’s in a coma and he died shortly afterward,” Ebony said.

That’s the reality for almost every person diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“It’s very tough to talk about. It brings it back,” Ebony said.

Kimberly Masters, another Augusta resident, also saw her dad suffer for months before he passed away in 2016 from the same cancer.

“When I hear it, it just makes my heart sink. To have anybody go through it, it’s horrible to watch,” she said.

Pancreatic cancer has the highest death rate of any cancer and a 9 percent survival rate.

Unfortunately, in almost every case, the cancer isn’t found until it’s too late.

“There are no effective screening tests, so most diagnoses are being made late. It’s very resistant to most chemotherapy agents and the biology of the disease is not well known,” Dr. Ajebo Germame with the Georgia Cancer Center said.

Doctors at Augusta University’s Cancer Center say they’re working to understand the disease better to hopefully find a cure.

“Studies are being done here. Our research center is doing studies, but I don’t anything I can present right now, but the work is being done,” Dr. Germame said.

It’s work to be done, which hopefully ends with a cure.

“I believe there’s going to one day be a cure. I pray for that,” Masters said.

There are ways that you can lower your chance of getting pancreatic cancer. Doctors say have a good diet, maintain good body weight, and, of course, get plenty of exercise.

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