SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest of all major cancers because it is difficult to detect until it has done a lot of damage. But pancreatic cancer is not a death sentence. This month of pancreatic cancer awareness, a cancer survivor who is going through life at a fast pace shared his journey.
Men can be notoriously bad at going to the doctor to get something checked out. Last year, in the midst of Covid, Kevin Moore put it off even longer despite his stomach ache. So Moore waited five months before seeing his doctor about his persistent abdominal pain.
“I’m a triathlete and I noticed I was starting to slow down,” Moore said.
He had raced a grueling Ironman Triathlon just months before. But he knew something was wrong.
“I lost 20 pounds in one month,” he said, and he also lost muscle mass.
That was April 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic flared up. He tried to ignore it. But Moore is a doctor and has been a pediatric radiologist at Primary Children’s Hospital for 16 years.
“I’m a doctor, and yet I still managed to explain away all these things that I should have worried about in hindsight,” he said.
By the time he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it had spread.
“When I had my first surgery, they found it had spread throughout my abdomen, and I had stage four cancer, which is typically considered incurable,” Moore said.
More than 60,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and more than 48,000 are expected to die from the disease. But not Dr. Moore. After a year of chemotherapy and five operations, he is cancer-free. He attributes genetics, luck and exercise. His cancer doctor agrees.
“The bigger message is that you can stay active to some degree even during cancer treatment,” says Dr. Mark Lewis, medical oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare, who is also a pancreatic cancer survivor.
“Pancreatic tumors rarely cause symptoms in earlier stages,” Lewis said.
The cancer is usually discovered in advanced stages.
“It’s often clinically silent until it’s quite advanced,” Lewis said. “So 85% of my patients at the time of diagnosis are already outside the window where surgery would cure them.”
The only cure is surgery. To stay alert for signs of pancreatic cancer, Lewis advises people to pay attention to unexpected weight loss, nausea, vomiting, pain near the rib cage, and jaundice. Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
After his battle with cancer, Moore is back at work full-time, competing in cycling races and riding to the top of a mountain in France as part of a September bike ride.
“I’m back. I’m working. I feel good most of the time.”
He feels so good, he bought a new bike and plans more races next year. Moore is cautiously optimistic about his future.