African Americans have a higher incidence rate of pancreatic cancer than any other racial group in the United States. According to the National Library of Medicine, the incidence of pancreatic cancer in African Americans is 50% to 90% higher than the incidence in other racial groups.
During Black History Month, Project Purple wants to shine a spotlight on the experience of Black patients by acknowledging and highlighting the disparities that contribute to their increased risk for pancreatic cancer, as well as sharing stories from Black pancreatic cancer survivors and caregivers. So let’s talk about the disparities for Black patients.
Statistics, Disparities, and Resources
Before we continue, we want to express that if you or a loved one is affected by pancreatic cancer, you are not a statistic, and you are not alone in your battle. Your outcome and personal journey are not defined by data sets or statistics – your situation is unique to you and these statistics do not determine your survival as an individual. However, for society as a whole, it is important to understand the statistical disparities between Black and white pancreatic cancer patients in order to improve the situation for all patients in the future.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Black patients are not only more likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but are also commonly diagnosed with later-stage pancreatic cancer, making it harder for them to receive treatment. Because Black patients are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, they also have a worse median survival rate than white patients, according to the National Library of Medicine. And, these numbers don’t seem to be improving.
A study published by the National Library of Medicine states that Black patients’ prognosis has not increased with advances in medicine over the past several decades at the same rate as white patients. The five-year survival rate in general for all pancreatic cancer patients is about 13%, but for black patients, the five-year survival rate is about 11% according to The American Cancer Society. But, what is causing these disparities for Black patients?
According to Johns Hopkins, there are several risk factors that can contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer. The university suggests that chronic pancreatitis, genetics, and obesity may increase a patient’s risk of pancreatic cancer. However, researchers have yet to find conclusive evidence directly linking pancreatic cancer to any of these risk factors. Other studies published in the National Library of Medicine suggest that socioeconomic factors, disparities within the healthcare system, and a general lack of knowledge about pancreatic cancer can also contribute to someone’s risk of pancreatic cancer. In a future blog, Project Purple will explore how you can get the best care possible despite these disparities.
Media representation is another very important factor and we want to push to equalize representation in this field. Our weekly Project Purple Podcast often features guests who are surviving and fighting pancreatic cancer. We have had many wonderful episodes with African-American guests and would love to have more Black representation on the show to amplify Black voices. If you are a survivor or fighter who would like to join us for an episode, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Every patient deserves a chance to fight their battle!
At Project Purple, we are committed to helping all patients get the help they need so they can focus on what matters most: getting well. One way Project Purple tries to even the playing field for all patients is by providing financial aid and meal assistance to patients in need.
Our PFA program is designed to help patients with medical and everyday living expenses so patients can focus on what matters most: the fight against this disease. Since its inception in 2012, the program has paid an excess of over $1,000,000 to help more than 1,300 patients cover medical bills, utilities, and housing expenses. We have never turned away a qualified patient. If you or a loved one is battling pancreatic cancer, please visit our Patient Financial Aid webpage for more information and to learn how to apply for the program.
This year, Project Purple also unveiled a new partnership with Nutré Meals that will help patients receive the right kind of food to help fuel their fight against pancreatic cancer. Now, patients and their families who are located in the New England and Tri-State Area have access to this program to help alleviate some of the financial, emotional, and physical burdens of cooking. Families have access to meals that cover all dietary restrictions. If you or a loved one is battling pancreatic cancer and needs access to quality nutrition, please visit our Nutrition Assistance Program webpage for more information and to learn how to apply for the program.