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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death brings awareness to pancreatic cancer

Posted at 9:48 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 22:48:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday at the age of 87 from pancreatic cancer, a highly metastatic form of the disease that spreads easily to other organs.

It can make for a tricky and deadly opponent for many cancer patients.

"It's spread from where it started in the pencreas to other organs, like the liver or the lungs, and now is in a state that is incurable," Dr. Raed Al-Rajabi, the medical oncology section lead at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, said in an interview Friday night.

Al-Rajabi said signs of this type of cancer are subtle.

"A lot of patients don't even know they have pancreatic cancer until it causes some type of byproduct of its growth, like a blockage of a bile duct," he said.

That doesn't mean there aren't any signs for which to be on the look out.

Those symptoms include "pretty significant fatigue or feeling tired, just for no reason," Al-Rajabi said. "Abdominal pain, mostly in the upper gastric or in the stomach area, and sometimes back pain. A lot of times it's unintentional weight loss."

He hopes Ginsburg's death sheds light on pancreatic cancer as people honor her life.

"She was a very strong person," Al-Rajabi said. "It's very obvious. She took this with grace and courage."

Doctors said if pancreatic cancer is caught early, surgery likely is the best option followed by some form of chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, by the time the cancer is detected is often has already spread, leaving chemo as the only option.