Pancreatic Cancer: Treatment & Early Detection
- Ruschell Boone is returning to her job as anchor at NY1 after being diagnosed with and beating pancreatic cancer.
- She treated her disease with chemotherapy and a Whipple procedure, an invasive surgery.
- Boone says her advice for people diagnosed with cancer is: “Make sure you read everything, and you listen to every decision and don’t hesitate to second guess it.”
- Symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include: Pain in the stomach or back, yellowing of skin or eyes, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel movements, indigestion, fever, and blood clots.
- Pancreatic cancer treatments include surgery (i.e. surgically removing the pancreas), and chemotherapy. Immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer is given in clinical trials, alongside other treatments, like chemotherapy.
“There was something off about it. I just felt weird,” she tells New York Post in an interview about when her symptoms started appearing last year. She also noted that she experienced unexplained weight loss – which is a symptom of pancreatic cancer.Read More
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Boone’s Pancreatic Cancer Journey
In January 2022, Boone experienced discomfort in her stomach; she experienced bloat, fatigue, and also had pain in her torso and on the upper right side of her back. At first, Boone believed these cancer symptoms were a signal that she simply needed to change her diet and her lifestyle.
On June 14, Boone tells the publication how she woke up in the middle of the night due to strong stomach pain and a racing heart. Her husband, Todd, took her to the ER and there, a CT scan showed that Boone had pancreatic cancer.
She tells the Post, “I just started wailing, crying and looking at my husband, thinking I heard it incorrectly. I thought, ‘Oh my god…My kids [Jackson, 11 and Carter, 9] are going to grow up without a mother.’”
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However, due to the fact that her cancer was detected early, the odds were more in Boone’s favor than they typically are for people diagnosed with this aggressive form of cancer. “It makes me emotional just thinking about it,” says Boone. “Maybe I had an angel. Maybe I was in tune with my body,” said Boone, who underwent treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
“This is my biggest advice. Make sure you read everything, and you listen to every decision and don’t hesitate to second guess it.” – Ruschell Boone, pancreatic cancer survivor
When it comes to advice she’d give people diagnosed with cancer, Boone says, “Not every doctor is built the same. I had to seek out a place where they specialized in this. This is my biggest advice. Make sure you read everything, and you listen to every decision and don’t hesitate to second guess it.”
Boone treated her cancer with chemotherapy starting in July 2022. She says, “In my off weeks, I made it a point to do a lot with [my family]. When I had chemo, I still came home and I cooked and cleaned. And I was always upbeat, which helped a lot and is disarming, especially with children.”
After seven rounds of chemotherapy, Boone’s tumor shrunk in size. She also learned she was eligible for a Whipple procedure, which is “an invasive surgery during which doctors remove the head of the pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and the bile duct,” reports the Post.
The news that she could get the surgery was joy-inducing for Boone, who says, “The day the surgeon told me, I jumped out of bed. I was like, ‘Thank you, thank you.’ As far as we know, this the only lifesaving method, so this [news] was overwhelming. There was a sense of, ‘I’m going to live.’”
In the fall of 2022, Boone had the Whipple surgery. She reflects on the outcome, saying, “This was the turning point. All my tests confirmed that [the doctors] got all the cancer and there was no spread to the lymph nodes.” Boone will still be monitored and have regular scans.
Detecting Pancreatic Cancer Early Is Crucial
Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN) details how most immunotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer are in clinical trials. In these trials, patients are also given other treatments, too, like chemotherapy.
“Up until now, immunotherapy hasn’t had a big role,” Dr. Allyson Ocean, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center, tells SurvivorNet in an earlier interview.
Dr. Anirban Maitra, the Co-Leader of the Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shot at MD Anderson Cancer Center, says in an earlier interview that detecting pancreatic cancer early – so as to treat it earlier – is crucial. He emphasizes that this is difficult, though, saying, “Because the pancreas is inside the abdomen, it often doesn’t have symptoms that would tell you that something is wrong with your pancreas.”
He continues, “By the time individuals walk into the clinic with symptoms like jaundice, weight loss, back pain, or diabetes, it’s often very late in the stage of the disease… for most individuals, about 80%, will actually present with what we called advanced disease, which means that the cancer has either spread beyond the pancreas or into other organs like the liver, and so you cannot take it out with surgeries.”
MD Anderson’s Pancreatic Cancer Moon Shot
Back to Work after Cancer
We love Boone’s dedication and passion for her career as an anchor at NY1. A cancer diagnosis like hers can be a life-altering event, and finding pockets of normalcy during the cancer journey – like continuing to work, or going back to work after treatment – is often welcome.
For Boone, it’s clear from her social media posts that she loves her job and her life as a popular New York anchor. Laurie Ostacher, a social worker at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, says in an earlier interview how important a person’s career may be to them, even during the cancer journey. She explains, “Some women choose to continue working [through cancer] because working is a significant part of their identity, they enjoy the job, and there’s flexibility built in.”
“I help folks think about whether it makes sense to work,” she says. “If you really don’t want to but are worried you’re not going to be able to make ends meet, then I’ll sit down and help them figure out, you know, with your disability insurance, would this be possible?”
Ostacher explains the questions she might pose to women to probe them to think about how their work life might look through cancer. She says, “For women who choose to work, I help them think about what types of conversations do you need to have with their employer? How much information do you want to share with him or her? What type of work schedule seems like it might work for you? Where might you need more flexibility?”
Working During Your Cancer Treatment
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