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Opinion Letters November is pancreatic cancer awareness month

The entire country, from TV celebrities, to the smallest town, has just completed a celebration of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a time for celebration because of the tremendous progress made in early detection, treatment, and even cures. This success is possible only because of the years of publicity and promotion of breast cancer awareness. “Pink” is everywhere: from all-pink newspapers to pink shoes on pro football teams. All this attention has brought funding; funding means research; research means cures. We rejoice in every life that has been saved.

However, recently, I have heard several versions of, “I am sick of pink; what about MY cancer?” Perhaps it is time to simply promote “cancer awareness.”

Did you know that November is “Lung, Pancreatic, Stomach, and Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Month”? You probably did not know this. Lung cancer kills four times as many people per year as breast cancer, yet breast cancer receives three times more National Institute of Health funding as does lung cancer.

Colon and rectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, but nothing is done to advertise that.

According to www.choosehope.com, there are 27 designated cancer colors and awareness months. Each cancer deserves attention. Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer.

According to information provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, www.pancan.org, the top five cancer killers are currently, lung, colorectal, breast, pancreas, and prostate. Pancreatic cancer is unique among these in that both the incidence rate and death rate are increasing. By 2015, it is expected that the number of deaths from pancreatic cancer will exceed those from breast and colorectal cancer and be exceeded only by the losses from lung cancer. It is expected to be the second leading cause of cancer deaths by 2020.

There are currently no early detection tools or effective treatments for pancreatic cancer. It has the lowest fiveyear relative survival rate of all major cancers at six percent, and 73 percent of patients will die within the first year of diagnosis (American Cancer Society facts and figures). In spite of this, the National Cancer Institute spent just 2.3 percent of its $4.3 billion cancer research budget on pancreatic cancer research in 2011. (NCI funded Research Portfolio). Although pancreatic cancer kills twice as many Americans as does AIDS, it receives 39 times less funding.

The Macon County Commissioners and the Franklin Board of Aldermen have each proclaimed Nov. 15, 2013, as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day in Macon County. At 5 p.m. on that day, there will be a program at the Gazebo, on the square in downtown Franklin. Kandy Kelley, coroner for Pickens County, S.C., will be the speaker, and Barry Clinton and his friends will provide bluegrass music. Opportunity will be given to recognize those affected by this cancer, and plans will be launched for a fund raising campaign.

What can we do? Wear purple for awareness. Learn the facts and help spread the information. If you go to http://www.choosehope.com/calendar-of-cancer-awareness- months, you will find a printable calendar. Print it out and post wherever you can. Contact your local newspapers and other news media and urge them to become involved. Contact your congressmen and urge that more attention and money be devoted to research on this relentless killer. Donate today: if you go to www.grititude.com, you will find a link to donate to the pancreatic cancer research program of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. One hundred percent of money donated through this site goes directly to research.

Margaret Ramsey — Franklin, N.C.


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