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Healthier Connections: Pancreatic Cancer

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November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. In this Healthier Connections, brought to you by Hartford HealthCare, Sarah Cody introduces us to a patient who beat this deadly disease.

"I was fine, I didn't know I was sick," but Anna-Leah Garrison's sister noticed her eyes looked yellow. After several tests, a tumor was found on her pancreas.

"Unfortunately with pancreatic cancer most people present with jaundice and a lot of times they don`t have any pain at all."

Pancreatic Cancer is rare, affecting 49,000 patients in the United States this year.

"It's definitely not a very common cancer however it's the 4th leading cause of death from cancer in the united states," said Dr. Christina Wai, a surgical oncologist at Hartford Hospital. She treated Garrison, whose cancer was in the early stages, making her a perfect candidate for surgery.

"The pancreas is almost a fish shaped organ. There's a head, body and tail. If the cancer is in the head of the pancreas, patients get a procedure called the whipple procedure." Garrison underwent this 8-hour procedure which involves the removal of part of the pancreas.

"People that can get to surgery and undergo surgery have the best chance for cure and survival." Dr. Wai is excited about advances in chemotherapies used after surgery to prevent recurrence. Hartford Hospital, which partners with Memorial Sloan Kettering for clinical trials and new therapies, is home to specialists that work as a team to assist patients.

15 months after surgery, Garrison feels great. She credits Dr. Wait with saving her life.