8-year pancreatic cancer survivor gains friend along journey to recovery

Average lifetime risk of getting pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 65

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio man is an eight-year pancreatic cancer survivor, and his doctor calls it close to a medical miracle. 

“I don’t want to say miraculous, but pretty darn close,” Dr. Morton Kahlenberg, of Surgical Oncology Associates, said.

Peter Suess was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. 

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“My family physician moved me to sonogram and then a CT scan, and it showed a spot on my pancreas. To get it actually diagnosed, I went to a gastroenterologist. The gastroenterologist diagnosed me and recommended me to Surgical Oncology Associates,” Suess said. 

Peter said it was an instant connection when he met Dr. Kahlenberg. 

 “Dr. Kahlenberg, we met him. He came in, he had his medical book  and a pad and we sat down in one of these exam rooms and for about an hour we talked about where the pancreas is. We had to do this, this and this, in order to do this. He had a plan. I think we hit it off,” Suess said. 

“Because the size of the mass and its relationship to important blood vessels, it was felt that he would best be served by undergoing the radiation and chemotherapy prior to surgery and then he went under actual surgical resection afterwards,” Dr. Kahlenberg said.  

Although it hasn’t been easy, Suess said not only his family gave him hope, but Dr. Kahlenberg and his team did too. 

“He did the surgery on me and he saved my life,” Suess said. 

“One hundred patients that would be sent to our practice for both my partner to Dr. Rousseau and myself, and 10-15 percent of those patients 10-15 percent end up being candidates for the type of the therapy that the gentleman that we are talking about has had, meaning that the vast majority of patients who come to us when their disease is too advanced or technically unresectable,” Dr. Kahlenberg said. 

Dr. Kahlenberg also said it was a positive attitude that Suess had that helped his process. 

“It’s how a patient also approaches things that impacts their overall survival,” Dr. Kahlenberg said. 

“None of these guys gave me a time frame. It was all about reaching these different goals, so that was motivation,” Suess said. 

According to the American Cancer Society, the average lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer for both men and women is about 1 in 65 (1.5 percent). But each person’s chances of getting this cancer can be affected by certain risk factors. 

For more information on pancreatic cancer, click here.

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