Rep. John Lewis
U.S. Representative John Lewis and a civil rights icon has disclosed that he is being treated for pancreatic cancer, an often-deadly disease that took the life of Aretha Franklin.
Congressman Lewis announced in a news release Sunday, “ This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis had been reconfirmed.”
Stage 4 pancreatic cancer means the disease, which is initially hard to detect, has spread to other organs, typically the liver or the lungs.
Pancreatic cancer occurs when the cancer cells form and grow in the pancreas, a vital part of the digestive system and a critical controller of blood sugar levels, according Johns Hopkins Medicine. The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen. Part of the pancreas is sandwiched between the stomach and the spine.
Pancreatic cancer can’t be cured at this point, but there are still treatment options. The MD Anderson Cancer Center reports that there are 50,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer every year and more than 40,000 individuals die from the disease every year.
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice, dark urine or light- colored stool, pain in the abdomen or middle of the back, bloating or the feeling of fullness, nausea, vomiting or indigestion, lack of an appetite, unexplained weight loss and sudden onset diabetes. Pancreatic cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Black men have a very poor survival rate from pancreatic cancer, according to several studies but the reasons are not clear. The disease also affects more individuals 65 and older. Lewis is 79. Doctors also are treating U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for pancreatic cancer. Justice Ginsburg is 85.
African Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than other ethnic racial groups. Risk factors for the ailment include smoking and obesity. Blacks are some the most-obese individuals in the country.
Lewis, who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, was elected to Congress in 1987. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the push for voting rights. Lewis urged everyone to keep him in their prayers.