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After Alex Trebek's pancreatic cancer diagnosis, one survivor says to stay hopeful

Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-07 18:34:14-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — "Anyone and everyone hears the term pancreatic cancer and I think you automatically go to the worst," Mark Kokanovich, a 15-year pancreatic cancer survivor said." "It is a terrible cancer."

Kokanovich is part of the one-percent of people diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer who survive past the five year mark. Kokanovich grew up in the City of Tonawanda and now lives in Rochester.

According to the CDC pancreatic cancer is behind seven-percent of all cancer deaths. Doctors say a main reason for this is because it is hard to detect early on and people cannot get pre-screened.

How can pancreatic cancer be detected early?

"There is hope, hope and pray at the end of the day," Kokanovich said. "Faith, family, friends all of that can make a huge difference."

Stage four is the same stage of pancreatic cancer Alex Trebek is battling. Trebek announced his diagnosis with hope, trust in medicine and some humor-- all things that Kokanovich says helped him survive.

"Try to wake up every morning and say alright so what do I have to do today." Kokanovich explained.

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of 42 cancer centers nationwide that was recently awarded the title of a National Pancreas Foundation Center. Doctors say they are committed to helping patients live as long as they can.

Smoking, obesity and genetics can be contributing factors.

"Patient centered research is always important, we are trying to get fro the patient how they are feeling with the new treatments," Dr. Christos Fountzilas, Medical oncologist and Assistant Professor of Oncology, gastrointestinal cancers team at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Since his diagnosis, Kokanovich is motivated to help as many people as he can.

"I think that all that we can do to educate ourselves, taking care of ourselves and getting all the test and screens. Any test that you can do to get ahead of the game I certainly recommend that," Kokanovich said.