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Cancer. That word alone sends shivers down anyone's spine. There are many definitions of the word; one could perhaps define it as the most vicious, cruel disease to affect a living being. Medically speaking however, cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancerous, and can quickly spread to other areas of the body if not detected and treated promptly.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month - a time to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer, celebrating survivors of this terrible disease, and honoring loved ones who are courageously fighting, or have been called home from pancreatic cancer.
The message for 2018 is to Never Give Up and to Demand Better - meaning, never give up the fight, the research, the advocacy, and to demand better detection, better care, and better medicine to bring us closer to a cure. The medical community has made great strides, but families affected by this disease deserve a chance at life.
Better progress starts with early detection. The key to early detection is knowing the symptoms, risks, and facts about pancreatic cancer. That is what this month-long awareness program hopes to accomplish! Below are some surprising and heartbreaking statistics about pancreatic cancer:
1. In 2018, an estimated 55,440 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S., and over 44,330 will die from pancreatic cancer.
2. Pancreatic cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer related death in the United States - surpassing breast cancer. It is expected to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer related deaths in the U.S. by 2020, surpassing colorectal cancer.
3. Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over early 40 years.
4. Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 74% of all patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
5. The 5 year relative survival rate for people diagnosed at all stages of this disease is 8%. However, the 5 year survival rate for people diagnosed at an earlier stage with local disease is 32%.
6. Endocrine tumors, affecting 6% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, have a younger median age at diagnosis and a better prognosis.
7. Few risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer are defined. The risk for cigarette smokers is nearly twice that for those who have never smoked. Family history of pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis, alcohol use, obesity, and diabetes are all risk factors. Individuals with Lynch syndrome, certain other genetic syndromes, as well as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers, are also at an increased risk.
8. Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague symptoms that could indicate many different conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include pain - abdominal or back, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes.
9. Treatment options for pancreatic cancer include: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. They are options that extend survival or relieve symptoms, but seldom produce a cure. Surgical removal of the tumor is possible in less than 20% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because detection is often in late stages and has spread beyond the pancreas. Clinical trials are testing several new agents for their ability to improve survival.
10. Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is still possible.
For more information on the warning signs of pancreatic cancer, as well as in depth information about the disease and specific types of tumors, read our earlier blog post on Pancreatic Cancer by clicking here.
These statistics are truly saddening. One can't help but wonder if we will ever see cancer, as merely a zodiac sign instead of a fatal disease. It is our hope that with each passing day, the doctors, scientists, and researchers are becoming one step closer to finding a cure for pancreatic cancer.
While we continue to wait with the hope of a cure, there are a few things that you can do this month to show your support and raise awareness for pancreatic cancer.
It is critical for us to raise awareness of one of the world's deadliest cancers. If we want to continue to raise awareness, we need more attention, awareness, and progress to help patients fight, thrive, and survive this disease.
Currently, there is no standard screening test or early detection method for pancreatic cancer. Some are in development, which is another sign of the progress happening in the field - and it needs greater attention and funding support. Pledge to know the symptoms and risks. Pledge to take action and demand better. Demand better for patients, for survival.
Share the Info & Spread the Word
Help others be aware of the symptoms and risks of pancreatic cancer by sharing the above and below infographics!
Next, spread the word on social media to help educate your family and friends about pancreatic cancer! You can temporarily change your Facebook or Instagram profile picture to support World Pancreatic Cancer Month, and post using hashtags: #WPCM or #WorldPancreaticCancerMonth.
Not on social media? No problem, you can also spread this information via word of mouth as well, and you can show your support by wearing purple and lighting it up purple! Turn the buildings, monuments, and homes in your community purple!
On Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, let's be loud and speak up against this dreadful disease. Take action. Demand better for yourself, your families, for all those fighting.