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Pay Attention to the Pancreas

Rainbow Sprinkles remind us to pay attention to the pancreas especially with a BRCA gene mutation

When BRCA genes are discussed, we usually hear about breast or ovarian cancers. Those of us who are well-versed with our BRCA genetic mutation know that more body parts are at stake.

One of those parts happens to be the pancreas. An organ that can be a mystery to many. We know that we need it, unlike the appendix, but why?

The pancreas is part of the digestive system regulating all of those sugary sweets that we consume, including fruit. It produces insulin, enzymes and hormones to break down our food. If the pancreas is not working well, diabetes can develop.

Another problem that can develop is pancreatic cancer. A cancer that proves deadly with no monitoring system…yet.

I don’t know about you, but I like to remain hopeful about what’s to come. With millions of dollars walking toward cancer research each year, something has to be discovered soon.

A few years ago, I read that a teenager named a Jack Andraka was working on a diagnostic tool in order to detect pancreatic cancer early. I cannot figure out what has become of his mesothelin test strips, but hope his idea leads to a preliminary screening method. Moreover, the National Cancer Institute reported the following in June of this year:

In the clinical trial, called POLO, participants who received olaparib (Lynparza) following standard chemotherapy lived for a median of 7.4 months without their pancreatic cancer progressing compared with 3.8 months for those who received a placebo after chemotherapy. 

Olaparib is in the same group of drugs called PARB Inhibitors, used to treat some BRCA positive women with breast and ovarian cancers. Unfortunately, this drug only creates a delay and has yet to improve survival.

Another study only recommends a one time MRI based screening at age 50 for BRCA2+ who have a family history of pancreatic andenocarcinoma. The results can increase survival anywhere from 3-260 days, so not heavily recommended at this point unless you have had 3 or more relatives with the disease. Still, a family history of pancreatic cancer combined with a BRCA genetic mutation warrants high risk screening.

While recovering from my bilateral mastectomy/DIEP Flap reconstruction surgery, my mom and I stayed up late one night getting punchy about our BRCA genetic mutation. We laughed about the irony of removing breasts and ovaries and then the cancerous pancreas quickly sneaking in and making the kill.

So please pay attention to your pancreas. Feed it as healthy and low sugar as possible. I say this as my mind keeps wandering to the image of a slice of peanut butter pie waiting for me in the refrigerator. I love sugar, yet understand that my pancreas does not. Well, hopefully it doesn’t mind periodic treats.

Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!  ~unknown