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Survivor urges Spartans to learn about stomach cancer

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University psychiatry professor James Randolph Hillard is glad that November has been designated National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month.

Hillard said he hopes a month of education and outreach will help people recognize symptoms of the disease sooner, ultimately saving lives.

A million new cases of stomach cancer are identified each year worldwide, according to the American Cancer Society, leading to more than 800,000 deaths annually. In the United States, an estimated 10,000 people died from the disease in 2011. Nearly three-quarters of people with stomach cancer die within five years of being diagnosed.

As for Hillard, he could hardly be more aware of stomach cancer’s effects.

In 2010 surgeons removed his stomach, gall bladder, part of his liver and dozens of lymph nodes after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer that had spread to other organs.

Hillard said the cancer got to that advanced stage because he never felt especially sick. He had a mildly upset stomach and was a little tired, but otherwise felt fine.

“Like me, most people with stomach cancer do not have major symptoms,” he said. “I had no idea anything was wrong with me.”

Hillard urges people with even minor symptoms – including abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and unexplained weight loss – to see a doctor, since early detection greatly improves their chance of survival.

He also noted that the prognosis for people with stomach cancer is much better than it was just a few years ago.

“I am feeling well and have no evidence of the disease, two years post-op,” Hillard said. “I do not know what my long-term prognosis is, but who does? I do know that I love life, and love my wife, more than ever before.”

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Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

 

Contact: Andy McGlashen, Media Communications, Office: (517) 355-5158, Cell: (517) 420-1908, andy.mcglashen@cabs.msu.edu; James Randolph Hillard, Psychiatry, jhillard@msu.edu, Office: (517) 884-3860, Cell: (517) 599-7897

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