Experts: Early diagnosis, surgery good signs for Rep. Takai's ba - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Experts: Early diagnosis, surgery good signs for Rep. Takai's battle with pancreatic cancer

Rep. Mark Takai Rep. Mark Takai
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

U.S. Rep. Mark Takai’s (HI-01) announcement Tuesday that he's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer signaled what will likely be an arduous battle.

Former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga knows that better than most. Matsunaga's father, U.S. Sen. Spark Matsnuga, died of prostate cancer in 1990.

"It's a devastating blow anytime a loved one is diagnosed with cancer," Matsunaga said.

Spark Matsunaga kept his cancer a secret for a long while, not even telling those close to him until the late stages.

Matt Matsunaga says his father ignored many of the symptoms, and was diagnosed late.

Takai, on the other hand, has been open about his cancer.  It was caught early and is still isolated.

Dr Shane Morita, of The Queen’s Medical Center, said that's good news. "Because there's no obvious spread to distant organs like the lungs or liver I think it's very promising," he said.

There are two basic types of pancreatic cancer. Takai did not reveal which one he had. The far more common, exocrine, is more aggressive and has a much lower survival rate. Endocrine cancers have a higher survival rate.

"Upwards of more than 25 percent of people live five years," said Morita.

Still, the National Cancer Institute pegs the overall 5-year survival rate at just 7 percent.

Morita said in Takai's case, there's reason to be optimistic. "It's encouraging the fact that surgery is being scheduled and entertained is definitely a very good sign," he said.

Matsunaga had a less clinical, but no less important outlook.

His message: "Just be strong, and express your love and support to Mark and hope for the best."

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly