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November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month; Wear purple Nov. 18 to show your support

Editor’s note: The following is a column submitted by Annette Fetty-Santilli, a West Virginia community partner and
National Volunteer Advisory Committee member for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

PHILIPPI — In October each year, we are surrounded by pink and pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness. The pink ribbon has brought about increased awareness for breast cancer and early screening. However, there is no early screening for pancreatic cancer. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and the color is purple.

I’ve been advocating for pancreatic cancer awareness since October 2007. I can even tell you the exact day — October 4, 2007 — that my younger brother passed away from pancreatic cancer. Until he was diagnosed just 18 months earlier, basically all I knew about cancer was the pink ribbon, because cancer didn’t apply to me or my family.

When someone says to me, “I don’t know anyone with pancreatic cancer,” I say, “Until March 2006, I didn’t either.” You never know when pancreatic cancer will affect your family; it sure caught our family by surprise, and our lives have never been the same.

Just this year, pancreatic cancer claimed the lives of illusionist Siegfried Fischbauer, former WVU and Florida State Football Coach Bobby Bowden, and actor Willie Garson (who was only 57). This type of cancer also claimed the life of actor Patrick Swayze, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Apple Founder Steve Jobs, and the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actress Kitty Swink is a thirteen-year survivor of pancreatic cancer.

While overall cancer incidence and cancer death rates are declining, the incidence of pancreatic cancer and death rate for pancreatic cancer patients has been increasing. By the end of 2021, an estimated 60,400 Americans will have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and more than 48,220 people will have died. Pancreatic cancer has surpassed breast cancer and is now the third leading cause of cancer related-death. Each day, 166 people are diagnosed with this terrible disease!

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and it would be great if we could see just half the purple in November than that of pink in October. Specifically, Thursday, November 18 is World Pancreatic Cancer Day sponsored by the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition. Everyone can join in, just by wearing purple. Let’s turn the world purple for just one day!

Since I have been volunteering for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the 5-year survival rate has risen from 6 percent to 10 percent. This is not nearly enough! We must all work together with our elected officials to increase federal funding for pancreatic cancer research. This starts by raising awareness – even if it’s just wearing purple for just one day! I’m asking everyone who reads this to learn more about pancreatic cancer: go to www.pancan.org, and remember, wear purple on Thursday, November 18!

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