Father's fight with esophageal cancer inspires daughter
Jackie Smith remembers her father suffering from heartburn for most of her life.
Emanuel F. Smith always kept a bottle of Mylanta on his nightstand, but in 2000, he found out that his ailment was more serious than chronic heartburn, said Jackie Smith, 31, of Summer Hill.
Her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent the removal of his esophagus, and radiation and chemotherapy treatments. In 2002, the cancer returned.
Emanuel F. Smith lost his battle with the disease at age 52 in 2004, she said.
“It's just a horrible, horrible disease to watch someone you love die from,” said Smith, a neurosurgical physician's assistant in Lawrenceville-based Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Many people are unaware of the link between heartburn and esophageal cancer or the disease's low survival rate, so Smith set out to change that by talking to a representative from the Esophageal Cancer Action Network, a Stevenson, Md.-based nonprofit, in July.
That led to a partnership between the action network and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The library's East Liberty branch will host a free awareness event, “Taking Steps to Save Lives: Because Heartburn Can Cause Cancer,” for the public on Tuesday.
The Esophageal Cancer Action Network partners with libraries all over the country to host awareness events, but next week's session at the East Liberty branch will be the network's first in Pittsburgh, said Mindy Mintz Mordecai, president and chief executive officer of the network.
Dr. Blair Jobe, director of West Penn Allegheny Health System's Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease, will lead the discussion at the East Liberty library branch.
“One of the thrusts of the Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease … is to better understand the risks of the disease, with a focus on early detection,” said Jobe, who also is chair of Western Pennsylvania Hospital's surgery department.
Emanuel F. Smith, a longtime volunteer coach with the Carlynton Little Cougars youth football team, died from adenocarcinoma, which, according to the Scottsdale-based Mayo Clinic, is the most common of the two main types of esophageal cancer in the United States, and it primarily affects white men.
Risk factors can cause chronic irritation of the esophagus that may contribute to DNA changes that cause esophageal cancer, the Mayo Clinic said. Such risk factors include gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, commonly called chronic heartburn or reflux.
Other risk factors are drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, obesity and smoking, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The survival rate at least five years after treatment ranges from 3 percent for distant esophageal cancer, which means the cancer spread to organs or lymph nodes away from the tumor, to 38 percent for localized cancer, which means the cancer grew only in the esophagus, according to the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society.
Mordecai founded the Esophageal Cancer Action Network in 2009 as a result of her husband dying of adenocarcinoma in 2008, she said.
“And I thought, how many more families are going to have to look at their kids and say, ‘Sorry, Daddy's not going to be here?' ” Mordecai said.
She points to the organization's successes, such as its establishment of Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, which more than half of all states recognized last year.
The group also was part of a successful lobby of the National Cancer Institute to include esophageal cancer in its genome mapping project, known as The Cancer Genome Atlas, about two years ago.
The East Liberty event, as well as those at libraries in Baltimore County, Md., and York, will kick off a campaign highlighting GERD Awareness Week, which is the week of Thanksgiving.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Already social media network CEO, Upper St. Clair senior wired for success
- Parents, students fight for Moon Area child development course
- Bethel Park breaking ground on new fire station
- Mt. Lebanon rejects bids to renovate high school rifle range
- Relief ahead for McKnight Road users
- Young Achiever: Troy Ferguson