Wed. Jul 24th, 2024


Ever heard of it?  Hope you never do.

Not until Karen Black died of ampullary cancer on August 8, 2013 did it make an impact.

Ampullary carcinoma  is a life-threatening cancer that forms in a body part called the ampulla of Vater. Sounds science fictiony.  It’s not.  It’s very real.  It’s very deadly.

Karen Black.  Actress best known for her roles opposite Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in 1969’s “Easy Rider”, and the 1970 movie, “Five Easy Pieces” with Jack Nicholson.  To her credit, over the length of her career she appeared in over 100 movies which is quite a feat in today’s movie making market.

An even bigger feat was battling and winning remission from ampullary cancer in 2003. This type of cancer attacks the ampulla of Vater which is a small opening that enters into the first portion of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. The ampulla of Vater is the spot where the pancreatic and bile ducts release their secretions into the intestines.

Multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation have been the standard fare for medical science combating this disease. Jaundice is often the first telling sign of trouble because blockage of drainage of bile into the duodenum leads to the development of jaundice. Sometimes more benign surgeries can be done endoscopically.  But if that doesn’t work, a more intrusive surgery called the Whipple would then be done.

One very important thing in surviving this type of cancer is early detection and proper treatment.

Jack Andraka, a fifteen year old freshman in high school, developed a paper sensor that could detect pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer in five minutes for as little as 3 cents. He conducted his research at Johns Hopkins University.



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