While legendary singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett quietly battled a rare form of skin cancer, his younger sister, Laurie Buffett McGuane was battling pancreatic cancer at the same time, according to People Magazine.
“Jimmy and I were diagnosed with cancer about the same time,” Laurie, 74, told People. “It was four years ago, and Jimmy was diagnosed first. When Jimmy found out I had cancer, he brought the whole family and the dogs to Montana to be with me.”
Jimmy Buffet Had Merkel Cell Skin Cancer
Jimmy Buffet had a type of skin cancer called Merkel cell skin carcinoma – a cancer that is diagnosed in fewer than 3,000 Americans each year, even though in general, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with all types of skin cancer daily – or about 3.5 million cases a year.
Merkel cell carcinoma is 40 times rarer than melanoma and nearly five times as deadly, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is aggressive, has a substantial risk of recurring and metastasizing – many times within just a few years of diagnosis.
Risk factors include sun exposure, lighter skin tones, a weakened immune system, and being older than 50.
Merkel cell tumors typically appear in areas of the body exposed to the sun, but not always. These cancers are also not as distinctive as other skin cancers. They can look like pearly, pimple-like bumps. Sometimes they are red or purple, and they often grow quickly. According to the National Cancer Institute, the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body like the lungs, brain or bones.
Treatments include radiation, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Jimmy Buffet’s Sister and Pancreatic Cancer
Like Laurie, more than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society. It accounts for 3% of all cancers in the United States and 7% of all cancer deaths.
Laurie says she had surgery for her pancreatic cancer at Duke University and had treatment in Montana.
Laurie says she is now cancer free.
Treatment of pancreatic cancer typically depends on the stage of the cancer and how far and where it’s spread in the body, according to the American Cancer Society.
Other factors can play a role too — like your overall health, your age, and other medical conditions you may have.
The most common treatments for pancreatic cancer include surgery to either remove the cancer or relieve symptoms, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and pain control.
Cancer and Siblings
Jimmy Buffett and his sister are not the only siblings who have or will face a cancer diagnosis at the same time. It may be more common than you may think.
“Jimmy and I became closer because of our cancers. We talked before and after our scans,” Laurie told People, “We shared a club that nobody wants to join. I am thunderstruck that Jimmy did not make it.”
According to a 2016 study of twins published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a person’s risk of developing cancer increases 33% if a sibling is diagnosed with cancer. This is especially true of prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancer.
Siblings Mike and Liz both had cancer as well. Mike was diagnosed with prostate cancer 10 years ago. Liz was diagnosed with colon cancer, which spread to her liver.
They believe they’re both alive today thanks to treatment at the CyberKnife Center of Miami, a premiere radiation cancer treatment center in South Florida. The two have always been close, but cancer brought them even closer.
CyberKnife Miami uses a form of pinpoint radiation called stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT to kill cancer while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. CyberKnife is non-invasive and can be used for lung, brain, spine, liver, pancreas, prostate and kidney cancers, according to Accuray, the maker of CyberKnife. It can also be used to treat metastatic cancer, as in Liz’s case.
“If you get a cancer diagnosis, go to CyberKnife Miami to see if you’re a candidate for CyberKnife radiation therapy,” Mike says.
“CyberKnife saved me,” adds Liz.
Cancer Treatment Miami
CyberKnife Miami has helped thousands of patients – even patients who were told they could not have any more radiation and in patients where tumors were deemed inoperable, like lung cancer patients and pancreatic cancer patients.
CyberKnife treatment can be done on its own or in combination with other therapies depending on the type of cancer.
Side effects with CyberKnife can also vary depending on the cancer and a patient’s overall health, but they usually are minimal and diminish quickly.
If you would like to find out more about cancer treatment with CyberKnife, call us at 305-279-2900 or go to our website now for more information www.cyberknifemiami.com.
Merkel cell carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer with a high rate of recurrence. In fact, it is 40 times rarer than melanoma.
What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?
Here are the risk factors that may increase your chances of developing skin cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Skin Color: Anyone can get skin cancer. But those with fair skin have less pigment, which means less protection from UV rays. Those who are blond or have red hair, those with light eyes, and those who freckle, or sunburn easily are at an increased risk than those with darker skin.
History of Sunburns: Even if you had a blistering sunburn as a child, you may be at an increased risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Wear your sunscreen.
Spending a lot of time in the sun: If you are in the sun and your skin is unprotected, you are at an increased risk. The same is true if you use tanning beds. Higher elevations where the sun is stronger also expose you to more UV radiation.
History of Skin Cancer: If you or a parent or sibling has had skin cancer, you are more susceptible.
Weakened Immune System: Those with a weakened immune system are at greater risk of developing skin cancer.
Toxin Exposure: Working around certain chemicals or being exposed to radiation can damage skin cells and raise your risk of skin cancer development.
Moles or Precancerous Skin Growths: If you have abnormal moles, you are at an increased risk of skin cancer. Make sure to watch those moles for changes and get them checked regularly. Skin lesions called actinic keratoses can also increase your risk. Actinic keratoses are common on fair-skinned people who have sun damage. They are rough scaly patches that can be brown, dark, or pink. Again, get annual exams to check for changes.