Valley Oncologist Says Patients Suffering from Diabetes, Cancer Not Unusual

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MCALLEN – A Rio Grande Valley oncologist says he often deals with patients who have both diabetes and cancer. He says a healthy lifestyle can help you avoid both.

Dr. Suresh Ratnam says for 22 years, he’s specialized in dealing with cancer patients in McAllen. He says a lot of work has gone into determining if diabetes predisposes to cancer or vice-versa.

He says there are a number of cases of diabetics who are eventually diagnosed with cancer.

"It's interesting because both diseases have similar risk factors. For instance, being overweight, being obese does increase your risk of diabetes and definitely does increase your risk of certain cancers as well," he explains.

Dr. Ratnam says there are cancers that are not unusual to find in diabetics.

"If you look at which cancers are common in diabetics, compared to a non-diabetic – wanted to see the difference there. I'll put liver cancer is definitely more common, seems more common in diabetics,” he says. “The same goes for pancreas cancer, slight increase in colon and rectal cancer as well. Bladder cancer as well seems to be slightly more prominent in diabetics. In women, breast and uterine cancer tend to be more common in diabetics.”

Dr. Ratnam tells us older patients are also more likely to have diabetes and cancer. He says there's likely some hope for patients with both diseases.

"There is a lot of work being done with Bariatric surgery which does tend to put the vast majority of diabetes cases into remission,” he says. “And similarly with cancer, if there's an early stage cancer diagnosis, the hope is definitely that you can cure it.”

He adds the diagnosis of the two diseases can affect the patient psychologically, even if they know there is hope for a treatment. So, he finds counseling for patients in need.

"On a case-by-case basis, I think everyone has different coping mechanisms. Some people have strong family support or social support mechanisms and that's fine. But some people come out and tell you, 'I feel depressed,'" he explains.

He says he refers depressed patients to be treated with medicines.

Dr. Ratnam adds weight watching is key to staying away from a diagnosis. He says exercising and a healthy diet is the formula to living a long life.

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