Raising Awareness of a Silent Killer: Pancreatic Cancer
What do Margaret Mead, Count Basie, Rex Harrison, Henry Mancini, Irving Wallace, Marvin Beli, Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon, Donna Reed, Dorothy Dunnett, Joan Crawford, Steve Jobs, Phillip Levine, Jack Benny, Dizzie Gillespie, and Frank Zappa all have in common? They all died of Pancreatic Cancer, as did former President Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy, and their mother “Miss Lillian.”
Pancreatic Cancer is the #4 cancer killed in the United States amongst both men and women. It is often referred to as the “silent killer” as it is rarely diagnosed in time for treatment. It has the #1 fatality rate of all cancers. Only 4% of the patients will survive beyond five years.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network approximately 32,180 people will be diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer this year. Yet, “despite the especially lethal nature of pancreatic cancer, the research spending per pancreatic cancer patient is only $1145, the lowest of any leading cancer.”
Why is this? Perhaps because most people don’t even know where their pancreas is located or what role it plays on our body’s good health. It works in the production of enzymes for digestion and the production of hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. It is a gland located deep in the abdomen between the stomach and the spine.
Every 17-minutes someone in the country dies of this lesser known disease that has a 99% fatality rate.
Although it is the fourth cancer killer in the country most people do not know the risk factors or the symptoms of this type of cancer. Hence, November has been designated as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer include:
Pain in abdomen or back
Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
Fatigue or Weakness
Nausea and Vomiting
Significant Weight Loss
Risk factors include:
Smoking: 2-3 times increased risk for smokers vs. nonsmokers
Family history: 2-3 times increased risk if first degree relative diagnosed with PC
Only a small percentage of people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are able to have the tumor surgically removed. More often than not, by the time the diagnosis comes, the cancer has spread and there are not at this time many treatment options.
The NW is home to one of the country’s highly-respected Pancreatic Cancer researchers, the UW’s Dr. Teri Brentnall whose work has been nationally recognized.
Thank you for reading this article and for taking a moment to be aware of some of the symptoms of these lesser-known but grave forms of cancer.
If you know someone with pancreatic cancer, or a friend who is caring for someone who has this form of cancer, I urge you to lend a hand —it is a horrible disease. This posting is meant to raise awareness and urge you to support the quest for additional research dollars to help find a cure.