Calvin "Megatron" Johnson Recalls Mom's Battle
- Hall of Famer Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, 36, is using his platform to spread the benefits of early detection after it helped his mother, Arica Johnson, beat pancreatic cancer seven years ago.
- Johnson learned his mother fell on ice outside the airport in Philadelphia after a game. Already concerned about his mother’s health because of the fall, Johnson and his siblings got the news no one wants to hear when doctors said they found abnormal cells and that she had pancreatic cancer.
- The overall five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 10%. Relative survival is a much greater 39% when the disease is found before it starts to spread.
Johnson, 36, recalls the day his mother Arica fell on a patch of ice while traveling to the airport in Philadelphia after a game between the Eagles and the Detroit Lions.Read More
“That’s pretty much a death sentence when you hear that, you know,” says Johnson as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign. “Fortunately, we were in a position where she found it early.”
Johnson then looks at the camera and states: “Early detection gave my mother a chance.”
The league launched the campaign “to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction.” The NFL also partnered with the American Cancer Society for the annual event, which honors those battling cancer, those who have survived cancer, and those lost to cancer.
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Arica’s cancer had yet to metastasize when doctors discovered abnormal cells, which made a huge difference when it came to her chances of surviving the disease.
The overall five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 10%.
In the end, Johnson says that the incredible team at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins helped his mother beat the disease.
Johnson, who announced his retirement at the end of that season despite still being at the peak of his career, says that his mother’s positive attitude and good spirits impressed him most during her battle and later recovery from the disease.
“My mom, she’s an inspiration to me,” explains Johnson.
Megatron got a bit emotional in the video while speaking about his mother’s battle, but was firm and direct when it came time to spread his message.
“Regular cancer screenings save lives.”
Difficulty Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is rarely diagnosed at an early stage. That is because most patients do not experience any symptoms until the cancer has metastasized (spread) to other organs in the body.
And the symptoms could be attributed to a host of other illnesses, as they include:
- Abdominal pain that is felt in the lower back
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Yellowing of the skin
- Yellowing of the eyes (jaundice)
- Lighter-colored stools
- Darker-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Recent diabetes diagnosis
- Inability to control diabetes
- Blood clots
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Pancreatic Cancer Risk
Incidence rates for pancreatic cancer rose by about 1% per year from 2006 to 2015, but screening for asymptomatic people is not recommended.
“Pancreatic cancer is still uncommon enough that if you were to screen everybody you would end up with a lot of false positives,” explains Dr. Anirban Maitra, co-leader of the Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shoot at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“Even with a fantastic biomarker test that you had, even if it was 99% sensitive and 99% specific, you would still have a lot of false positives.”
That is not meant to deter people from screenings, especially those whose relatives have been diagnosed with the disease.
“If somebody has two first-degree relatives with pancreatic cancer,” Dr. Maitra says, “their risk is already double digits higher than the average population. If they have three family members it’s almost 34 percent higher than the average risk population.”
The presence of cysts on the pancreas also carries an increased risk of cancer, though in most cases those growths are completely benign.
Challenges to Screening for Pancreatic Cancer