Maria Menounos has revealed the bizarre symptom that led to her being diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The TV personality, 45, suffered excruciating pain that felt like she was going to ‘explode inside’ after eating farro salad on a flight. Doctors initially dismissed her bloating symptoms, but after she went to a second hospital for a scan she was diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer.
Menounos, who at the time was waiting for her daughter Athena to be born via surrogate , had surgery to remove the 1.5 inch tumor and said she was now in remission. Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer in America, with only one in ten patients surviving more than a year after their diagnosis. Menounos, who has 1.1 million followers on Instagram, said today that her case highlights the need to listen to symptoms in the body, even when doctors are dismissing them.
She told TODAY that after eating the salad she suffered ‘that kind of pain where you felt like you were going to explode inside’. ‘I thought it was the farro. I thought I must be getting really gluten intolerant and my stomach was not handling this well,’ she added. Massachusetts-based Menounos went to her doctor for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy after the stomach pain appeared in 2022, but nothing untoward came up. She also had a CT scan which also did not find anything — with the results even describing her pancreas as ‘unremarkable’.
But her symptoms persisted, with the TV personality also suffering from diarrhea and in November 2022 again being buckled over in pain. This led her to go to a separate hospital in January for a full-body MRI scan, which revealed the tumor in her pancreas. She was later told the CT scan missed this because it did not show up as clearly as on the MRI.
She was rushed through for surgery and in February 2023 had the tumor surgically removed along with part of her pancreas, and part of the spleen and 17 lymph nodes — which are part of a separate circulatory system in the body for fluids. The cancer had not spread in her body and she needed no further treatment. Menounos is now doing well but continues to keep an eye out for symptoms, logging any concerning feelings in a book so she can keep track.
Posting an image of her in a bikini, showing off her surgery scars, the mom wrote on social media: ‘I look back on surgery earlier this year and am grateful for the strength god blessed me with to get through and of course all of the beautiful humans that he sent to help me too! ‘Now I see the scars that I sunscreen up carefully to protect and I smile. ‘ Her daughter Athena has now turned four months old and she described her as the ‘love of my life’ and ‘my best medicine’.
‘ She’s going to be taught that the No. 1 thing in her life is to be healthy, and then she can achieve and do anything she wants from there,’ Menounos said. ‘ I think that my next chapter of my life is going to be the healthiest because I’ve been forced to really reevaluate my health in such a deep way. It’s changed the course of everything.’ Pancreatic cancer is a less common type of cancer, with about 64,000 cases diagnosed every year — making up three percent of all cancer cases. However, it is normally not detected until later stages when the disease has become more advanced and spread to other areas of the body, making it harder to treat.
This is because it rarely triggers any symptoms in the early stages, and the warning signs can be so subtle they are dismissed as less serious health conditions. About two-thirds of patients diagnosed with the cancer are over 65 years old, and almost all are older than 45, according to the American Cancer Society. She is revealing her case as part of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month this November.
Dr. Julie Fleshman, the president of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, said: ‘We are so grateful to Maria and our other PanCAN ambassadors who are so bravely sharing their stories to raise awareness about the importance of early detection for survival. ‘In addition to educating the public about the risks and symptoms of pancreatic cancer, PanCAN will continue to make significant investment in research to find an early detection strategy for this disease.’
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