November is pancreatic cancer awareness month, and we are reposting this wonderful blog written by Merideth, the daughter of Ann and Randy Moore.
Boobs get all the love
Pancreatic cancer is the most deadly of all cancers. It isn’t the most common so it doesn’t kill the most people. But it has the lowest survival rate of any other– just 6% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will survive for 5 years. Seventy-five percent will be gone in just 6 months.
When my mother was diagnosed at age 51, it was essentially a death sentence. It killed her in just over two years.
As a public figure, she was public about her illness. She wanted to do everything in her power to help others battling the disease. At one speaking engagement, I heard her share that she often felt like one tiny purple ribbon in a sea of pink. She was alluding of course to the mighty force of breast cancer with its dominance in funding, treatment innovation, and even popular culture. Please don’t misunderstand me. Breast cancer is a horrible monster. It affects far too many people and it certainly needed the funding to get where it is today– decreasing every single year in both diagnosis and mortality rates. Pancreatic cancer, on the other hand, has kept the same grave statistics for the last 40 years.
Here’s how federal funding breaks down between the top five cancer killers.
In 2011, there were 288,500 new cases of breast cancer and there were 39,520 deaths. There were 43,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer and 36,800 deaths. I’m not concerned with the reason for such blatant inequality in support between two very deadly diseases. It doesn’t matter. But I am concerned with changing it.
A giant stride was made on September 19th of this year when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act. It’s a bill that would require the National Cancer Institute to reevaluate the way it’s handling pancreatic and other recalcitrant cancers. The required long-term plan (or scientific framework) would have to identify promising scientific advances, assess the sufficiency of qualified researchers working in relevant specialties, outline a plan to coordinate research, and include recommendations to advance research, including appropriate benchmarks for measuring progress. This is a monumental and absolutely necessary step, but the bill will still need to be passed in the Senate and signed by President Obama to go into effect.
The other hope comes through generous donors. Individual and corporate sponsors very reliably default to breast cancer when choosing their medical charities. There are thousands of companies that sell pink and sparkly products during the month of October, not only increasing their own profits, but also contributing to the cause of breast cancer foundations. It might be a marketing grand slam or it might be that people just really love boobs. Either way, I hope it continues, because they need it.
Most don’t realize that November is pancreatic cancer awareness month. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (known as Pancan) is the leading organization in lobbying, fundraising, and education regarding the disease. They’ve committed to doubling the five-year survival rate by the year 2020 (despite projections that pancreatic cancer will rise to the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths by as early as 2015). If you can find it in your heart to root for the under-dog this season and throw a few pennies toward the less-sexy organs in our lives, please consider contributing to the cause by visitingwww.pancan.org.
My mom was diagnosed with inoperable, untreatable pancreatic cancer in May of 2007 and her first thought was that she’d be dead by Christmas. With the medical and scientific resources available today, no one should have to face a death sentence like that. Please understand that appropriate funding could give hope to an otherwise hopeless disease.