Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths across the nation.
Statistics indicate than an estimated 206,200 new cases of cancer, and 80,800 deaths from cancer, occurred in Canada in 2017.
Because pancreatic cancer progresses rapidly, and no method of early detection has been discovered to date, it is considered one of the most dangerous types of cancer.
The one-year survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 25 per cent, and the five-year survival rate sits at only six per cent.
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes most pancreatic cancers, but recent medical breakthroughs on how to treat it are having a dramatic effect on Mill Bay’s Allan Wood.
I was astonished when I first met Wood recently while he was relaxing with his wife, Alana Baker, at his home.
An email that the newspaper had received from Baker indicated that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given just six months to live in early 2017.
But yet, more than a year and half after his diagnosis, Wood appeared to be no more sick than if he was recovering from a bad case of the flu.
It’s not that he’s cured of his cancer, but the determination of the couple to find the ways and means through their crisis, combined with ongoing work in the field, has (hopefully) added years to his life and has certainly improved his day-to-day living.
The secret to Wood’s current condition seems to be the drug Afatinib, which is typically used to help treat people with lung and kidney cancer, but with emerging evidence to support its use in treating other cancers, his doctors agreed to allow Wood to take part in clinical trials.
The medical community has been astounded by the results since then, as have Wood and Baker.
Within three weeks, Wood went from only being awake two hours a day, needing a wheelchair for transport as he could no longer walk, to walking into the hospital with only a cane for assistance.
A PET scan taken a month after he started taking the drug revealed that his cancer had retreated considerably.
Wood was told at the beginning of the clinical trials that if there was any improvement in his condition at all, it would take at least six months to a year for it show, if he lived that long.
“My husband is now a poster child for this drug and is being talked about at oncology conventions as the best responder to the newest drug therapy that they have ever seen,” Baker told me during my visit to the couple’s home.
Almost all of us have someone close who has either died from the disease or is fighting some form of cancer.
One of my sisters has had a breast removed due to cancer and, fortunately, the cancer hasn’t returned at this stage, but she is being closely monitored by doctors ever since just in case.
As well, my mother has had her own struggles with the disease that are ongoing.
That’s why I find it so heartening to see such a breakthrough as Wood is experiencing.
It may be a long process, but it’s good to see the medical community is working hard to come to grips with cancer.
It’s my fervent hope, and that of many others, that cancer can be beaten.