Pancreatic Cancer

On the May 12, 2013, edition of Cleveland Connection we talk to MaryKaye Mackulin with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

She’s talking about the 12th annual Purple Stride Cleveland, being held June 1st, to raise awareness and funding for research in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Listen to the podcast here:

MaryKaye’s fiancé, Ed Demyan, lost his battle to pancreatic cancer just 2 months after the photo above was taken at the Purple Stride Walk in 2011.

We also talk with Jessica Graser, a pancreatic cancer survivor.  She shares her story of triumph and hope.

Jess Graser Family

Here are some facts about pancreatic cancer:

 1.   Tell me about pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer death by 2020, and possibly as early as 2015. 74 percent of patients will die in the first year of diagnosis and the five year survival rate is just six percent, the lowest among leading cancer killers. Despite the statistics, pancreatic cancer is the most under-funded among leading cancer killers with a mere two percent of the National Cancer Institute’s annual research budget.

2.   What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

The symptoms are back or abdominal pain, digestive issues or unexplained weight loss, which may indicate a number of other conditions. The symptom that often triggers a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes.

3.   What treatment options are available?

The standard treatments for pancreatic cancer include chemotherapy and/or radiation. Some patients may be eligible for a surgery called the Whipple procedure. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network encourages all patients to consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options. The organization has a database of clinical trials going on throughout the country and can perform personalized clinical trials searches for patients. Patients are strongly encouraged to take trial information to their physician for treatment advice.

4.   Why is pancreatic cancer hard to detect?

Pancreatic cancer is hard to detect because of the location of the pancreas—it is deep in the abdomen and the symptoms are often vague. There are no early detection or screening methods as there are with colon, breast or prostate cancer. Scientists are desperately researching early detection methods and treatments, and need more funding in order to drive pancreatic cancer research and give patients a fighting chance.

PurpleStride Walk

On Saturday, June 1, 2013, more than 2,000 people will participate in a timed 5K run and 1.5 mile family fun walk to raise funds and awareness for pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, at the 12th Annual PurpleStride Cleveland!

The Cleveland Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is Raising Funds and Awareness for the Fourth Leading Cause of Cancer Death in the United States at Voinovich Park, Downtown Cleveland.

“PurpleStride Cleveland is meant as a day of hope and inspiration for people who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as well as a tribute to people who have passed away from this terrible disease,” said Megan Graham, Event Coordinator of the Cleveland Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  “Money raised helps fund personalized support for patients, their families and caregivers, as well as supporting research that will hopefully lead to better treatment options to increase survival for pancreatic cancer patients.

This year, more than 45,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 38,000 will die from the disease. This devastating disease has claimed the lives of many public figures, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayze, physicist and first American woman in space, Sally Ride, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Ralph Steinman, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Dr. Randy Pausch, actor Michael Landon, and opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti.


• Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.1

• Pancreatic cancer has the lowest five-year relative survival rate of all major cancers* at just 6%, and 73% of patients will die in the first year of diagnosis.1,2

• In 2013, an estimated 45,220 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and approximately 38,460 will die from the disease.1

• Based on the changing demographics of the U.S. population and changes in the incidence rate and death rate, the number of new cases of pancreatic cancer will increase more than 2-fold and the number of deaths will increase by 2.4-fold by the year 2030.3

• Pancreatic cancer is anticipated to move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by 2020, and possibly as early as 2015.3

• Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and has moved from the tenth to the ninth most commonly diagnosed in women.1

• Risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include family history of the disease, age, chronic or hereditary pancreatitis, smoking, obesity and recent-onset diabetes. These and other risk factors are still being investigated.

• Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague symptoms that could indicate many different conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include pain (usually abdominal or back pain), weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes.

• Treatment options for pancreatic cancer are limited. In adenocarcinoma, the most common type of pancreatic cancer, surgical removal of the tumor is possible in only approximately 15% of patients.

• Chemotherapy or chemotherapy with radiation may be offered before or after surgery. Chemotherapy or other drug therapies are typically offered to patients whose tumors cannot be removed surgically. There are three FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and two FDA-approved drugs to treat advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. However, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s Guidelines for the treatment of pancreatic cancer states that clinical trials are the preferred option for treatment.

• Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no good early detection tools or effective treatment options, due to complex biological features of the disease.

• The National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent an estimated $99 million on pancreatic cancer research in 2011. This represents just 2.3% of the NCI’s $4.3 billion cancer research budget for that fiscal year.


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