pancreatic cancer awareness month

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month: How To Support

As November approaches, the purple banner unrolls to Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, a global health observance. This annual event rallies people worldwide, uniting them in a battle against a rare but grave type of cancer. 

More than creating awareness, this month reminds us that it isn't a solitary fight waged by the medical and research communities. It's a collective effort, a shared responsibility. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: November - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background

clasping hands
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Fueled by their encounters, Pamela Acosta Marquardt, Terry Lierman, and Paula Kim founded the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). They took a determined step forward, launching the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

They chose November to align with the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. The intent was to highlight the often-overlooked connection between smoking and this type of cancer. The height of the monthlong celebration is World Pancreatic Cancer Day, every third Thursday of November.

In 2012, the U.S. Senate officially declared this awareness month, bringing the illness into the limelight on a national level.

Fast forward to 2014, the "Purple for a Purpose" campaign turned purple into a symbol of this type of cancer. The public embraced it wholeheartedly, signaling a growing awareness and determination to fight this disease. 

Each year since, this celebration has continued to shape the dialogue around this deadly illness, instilling hope and resilience.

Related Read: World Cancer Day, Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

The Cause and Its Challenges

The pancreas is an organ tucked away in our abdomen, playing a role in digestion and blood sugar regulation. Unfortunately, unlike other types of cancer, pancreatic cancer tends to conceal symptoms longer until it's progressed to an advanced stage.

Pancreatic cancer presents primarily in pancreatic adenocarcinoma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). The former makes up about 95% of cases, with a relatively low five-year survival rate of 12.5%. On the other hand, the latter is rare, comprising only less than 2% of cases, yet it has a significantly higher five-year survival rate of 53%.

About 1 in 62 adult Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Due to late detection, it is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States2. Moreover, it surpasses breast cancer, the most common type, in the number of lives it claims annually. 

Furthermore, the impact of this disease isn't limited to the patient. It ripples out, affecting communities and straining healthcare systems with its economic burden1. The United States spends a staggering $2.55 billion each year on treating this disease.

Efforts and Initiatives

medical consultation
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
  • The World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition is an alliance of over 90 organizations from over 30 countries. They are the ones who started using the purple color to represent pancreatic cancer awareness, calling to push the disease into the global spotlight.
  • The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's flagship annual event, PurpleStride, is making waves in the United States. Through their events, they raise funds and connect patients and their families across the nation.
  • Similarly, in the United Kingdom, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund's "Turn it Purple" campaign transforms pharmacies and businesses into purple landmarks, championing the cause.
  • Meanwhile, Cancer Australia and the European Union's Horizon 2020 program are vital initiatives in pancreas cancer research.

How to Support Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

These are some of the simple ways to raise awareness with the prime goal of raising vital funds for critical research, treatment, and support services:

  • Wear a purple ribbon or wristband to ignite conversations.
  • Learn more about the disease's symptoms and risks from credible sources.
  • Participate in local events, from charity runs to bike rides.
  • Share pancreatic cancer facts, heart-rending personal stories, or life-changing resources. Use hashtags such as #PancreaticCancerAwarenessMonth or #WageHope.
  • Lend a helping hand to cancer patients by driving them to their treatments, helping with household tasks, or simply lending a listening ear.
  • Volunteer at or donate to legitimate organizations.

Conclusion

As Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, it's clear that this observance is more than raising awareness. This month also amplifies the voices of those directly affected – patients, caregivers, and the medical community tirelessly working towards more effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

Let the momentum gained during this time continue our fight against pancreatic cancer. Whether you choose to donate or volunteer, every action is significant. 

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month FAQs

1. Why do we celebrate Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month?

The month of November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. It aims to raise awareness about the disease, its risks, its symptoms, and the importance of early detection.

2. What are the common risk factors for pancreatic cancer?

Common risks include age, family history, smoking, obesity, certain genetic mutations, chronic pancreatitis, and diabetes.

3. What are the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Early symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include abdominal or back pain, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, and changes in stool color.

4. How can I support this awareness month?

You can support the cause by posting on social media, participating in fundraising events or walks, wearing purple, donating to research organizations, and encouraging friends and family to get screened.

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1

Stukalin, I., Ahmed, N. S., Fundytus, A., Qian, A. S., Coward, S., Kaplan, G. G., Hilsden, R. J., Burak, K. W., Lee, J. K., Singh, S., & Ma, C. (2022). Trends and Projections in National United States health care spending for gastrointestinal malignancies (1996–2030). Gastroenterology, 162(4), 1098-1110.e2.

2

SEER. (2023). Cancer of the pancreas - Cancer Stat Facts.

Isabela is a determined millennial passionate about continuously seeking out ways to make an impact. With a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering with honors, Isabela’s research expertise and interest in artistic works, coupled with a creative mindset, offers readers a fresh take on different environmental, social, and personal development topics.

Photo by Navy Medicine on Flickr (Public Domain)
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