It’s safe to say the Sea of Purple at the annual Pan-Can PurpleStride Walk at City Park is a sight Deborah Doggette never thought she’d be here to see. The 68-year-old was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.
“The doctor gave me six months to a year to live,” said Doggette. “I started crying.”
Pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of your pancreas and often goes undetected until it’s too late. The 5-year-survival rate is bleak at best at just 7 percent. In Louisiana, it’s anticipated that 860 people are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. 730 of them are expected to die from it. On Sunday, hundreds walked and ran as way to raise money and generate awareness for this difficult-to-diagnose disease.
“Because the pancreas is hidden, we don’t have a lot of warning signs,” said Dr. Jennifer Gnerlich, an oncology surgeon with LSU School of Medicine. “I think if we had more resources we could develop a screen test and figure out if that has to be a blood test or an imaging test or even some sort of body-fluid test that we could do early.”
There is radiation, chemotherapy and surgery but pancreatic cancer has more failed attempts at treatment than any other form of cancer, according to Dr. Christy Mitchell, who lost her cousin and a friend to the disease.
“It’s just very difficult to treat,” said Dr. Mitchell. “We just need more research for more options to bring to them.”
When Doggette was diagnosed she felt hopeless for a moment but she dried her tears and was able to beat it. Now, she wants more research and hopes one day pancreatic cancer will be a thing of the past.
“Maybe in 5, 10 years they will have found a cure and more people will survive,” said Doggette.
Doctors still don’t know the cause of pancreatic cancer but experts say you can reduce your risk by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and choosing a healthy diet.
Paul Dudley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.