Hive Health Media

From Pink Ribbons to Purple Ribbons: Promoting Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Pancreatic cancer may not yet get the level of media attention that other cancers receive every year, but this disease is a highly serious problem affecting thousands of Americans today.

Although pancreatic cancer treatment techniques and approaches are continually being developed to help combat the disease, its five-year survival rate is measured at just six percent–the lowest of all the major cancers in the world today. One of the main reasons this disease is so fatal is because early detection methods have yet to be developed, so most victims don’t receive a diagnosis or treatment until the cancer has reached a later, more serious stage.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

The pancreas is a gland located in the abdomen, which measures approximately six inches long and slightly resembles a tongue. It is surrounded by the stomach, liver, small intestine, gallbladder and spleen. The development of pancreatic cancer begins when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably within the pancreas. Two of the main types of cells in the pancreas are exocrine cells and endocrine cells. The majority of pancreatic cancers (95 percent) are diagnosed as exocrine tumors, which affect the body’s digestive processes.

Although a visit to the doctor is necessary for a proper diagnosis, some symptoms of pancreatic cancer include weight loss, pain, digestive complications, jaundice, changes in stools, diabetes, blood clots, ascites and neuroendocrine tumors.

Actions Being Taken to Combat the Disease

To raise awareness about the disease, November was declared National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in the hopes of not just spreading the word about its prevalence, but also raising funding and encouraging research to aid in the treatment of the illness.

Recently, members of the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, which is designed to develop a scientific framework that focuses on developing early diagnostics and treatment options to increase the survival rate for pancreatic cancer. The ultimate, specific goal of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is to double the survival rate of the disease by 2020. Although these goals and legal actions are highly promising, gaining more support from the U.S. Senate could dramatically increase the plan’s effectiveness.

Taking Small Steps to Limit Pancreatic Cancer

Gaining attention and encouraging action from powerful people is one step toward reducing the detrimental effects of pancreatic cancer, but raising awareness and stopping the disease begins with small and simple actions by everyday people. Like the ubiquitous pink ribbon used to raise awareness about breast cancer, displaying a purple ribbon—the symbol for pancreatic cancer awareness—is one easy and effective way to spread the word. Sharing personal stories about a loved one who may have been affected by the disease is also an effective way to gain support and make research a higher priority.

Because pancreatic cancer is so difficult to diagnose in its early stages, it’s a disease that could very easily affect more people than the statistics show. Therefore, supporting pancreatic cancer awareness isn’t just an altruistic act, but an act that likely personally concerns those who fight for the cause. With a more widespread effort, improving pancreatic cancer outcomes could easily be within reach.

In addition to having a strong interest in men's health issues, Matt Herndon loves to spend as much time as possible with his wife and three kids. When he’s not rushing from his kids' sports activities to music lessons, he’s slowly whittling away at his honey-do list.

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