November is pancreatic cancer awareness month! Purple is the official pancreatic cancer color. Project Purple is asking everyone to help us raise awareness and bring attention to this devastatingly deadly disease by turning the world purple for the next 30 days.
Why Do we Need an Awareness Campaign for Pancreatic Cancer?
Many people know nothing about where the pancreas is, what it does or the deadly nature of pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, few people know about the potential signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is fatal in over 92% of cases, yet research funding for the disease remains extremely low. Project Purple hopes that every person who has been impacted by pancreatic cancer will use the month of November to draw attention to this illness and help raise money for a cure.
What Does the Pancreas Do?
The function of the pancreas is a mystery to many people. In fact, the majority of people who receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis have no idea what the pancreas does. The pancreas is an organ which serves two important purposes. First, the exocrine cells of the pancreas secrete digestive enzymes which help to break down food. Secondly, the endocrine cells release insulin and glucagon, hormones which regulate blood sugar.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?
One of the challenges of diagnosing pancreatic cancer is that there are frequently no symptoms until the disease has spread throughout the body. When symptoms occur, they often include one or more of the following:
– Jaundice: If there is a tumor in the head of the pancreas obstructing the bile duct, the patient may develop jaundice. Yellowing of the eyes and skin is the primary sign of jaundice, but patients may also have itchy skin, pale colored stools and/or dark urine.
– Pain: Some pancreatic cancer patients experience abdominal and/or back pain.- Nausea: Patients may feel sick to their stomach
– Diabetes: Sometimes patients develop diabetes as a result of having pancreatic cancer.
– Blood clots: Blood clots can occasionally be a sign of pancreatic cancer.
What are the Survival Rates for Pancreatic Cancer?
According to the National Cancer Institute’s most recent Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is now 7.7%. It is estimated that 53,010 new cases of pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed by the end of 2016. Out of those 53,010 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016, only 4,240 will be alive five years later.
Even for stage I pancreatic cancer, the prognosis is not good, with a five-year survival rate of less than 30%. More often than not, pancreatic cancer goes undiscovered until it has metastasized. For those cases, the chance of surviving for five years is a mere 2.6%.
How does PC Compare to other Cancers?
The survival rate for pancreatic cancer is lower than that of any other form of cancer. Though survival rates are inching slowly upwards, improvements are not coming quickly enough. In 1975, SEER statistics revealed that only 3% of pancreatic cancer patients were alive after five years. To put the numbers into perspective, consider this: in 2016, 246,660 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which has an 89.7% five-year survival rate. Approximately 40,450 deaths will be attributed to the disease in 2016. Meanwhile ‘only’ 53,010 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but 41,780 people will die from the disease in 2016.
This is not to pit one form of cancer against another. One death from any form of cancer is one too many. The truth is that many of us who have been affected by pancreatic cancer have ‘pink envy’. For the entire month of October, everywhere we look, we see pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Everyone knows what the ubiquitous pink ribbon symbolizes. We love that breast cancer is getting attention and funding for research. But on November 1st, we wonder, “Why isn’t there a purple ribbon on yogurt caps?” Or “Why aren’t the NFL players wearing purple shoes this month?” Pancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer deaths, so why does it not get the attention breast cancer gets? Is it because many people do not even know what a pancreas does? Is it because it is a hidden organ and not sexy enough?
In the last couple of decades, breast cancer advocates have done an incredible job in raising awareness and funding for a cure. There has been innovative research in the world of breast cancer leading to new treatments which are more targeted in nature. We look at breast cancer advocacy as a model and we hope to emulate the advancements those advocates have brought about.
What Can I Do to Raise Awareness for Pancreatic Cancer?
Because so few people know what the pancreas is and what it does, it is important to spread the word about this important organ. Here are some easy ways to help raise awareness of pancreatic cancer:
- – Share information with your friends and family about the pancreas
- – Share the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer
- – Turn the world PURPLE for the month of November
- – Wear purple clothing every Friday (http://project-purple.myshopify.com/)
- – Change your social media profile to a purple photo or a purple ribbon
- – Tell people how pancreatic cancer has impacted your own life
- – Raise money for Project Purple
Project Purple is very excited to be doing all we can to increase pancreatic cancer awareness this November. We hope that you will join us as we spread the word and raise money to fight this deadly illness. We have some exciting new announcements this month. Look to our website and our Facebook page for more information on how you can help us beat pancreatic cancer!