What makes World Pancreatic Cancer Day different?

The third Thursday in November is World Pancreatic Cancer Day. For many people out there, it’s just another awareness day. Why in the world should you care? 

In our family, we talk about pancreatic cancer as a forgotten cancer. It’s not sexy. It’s doesn’t affect anyone’s cleavage. You don’t develop it by popping on some swimmers and tanning under the harsh Australian sun. You can’t feel a lump. You can’t see a mole. 

Hell, you could probably ask half a dozen people what a pancreas is or does and they wouldn’t know the answer. We’ll be the first to put our hands up and say prior to 2013, we had absolutely no idea where the pancreas is in the body. 

If you get persistent headaches, you think of your brain. Long-term cough? That may be your lungs talking. But if you have indigestion, you’ve lost your appetite, you suddenly develop diabetes without any other determining factors or you’re losing weight without even trying, that could be your pancreas signalling something is wrong. Yet, we never think about that organ situated deep in our abdomen. 

And that, my dear friends, is why this awareness day is ever so important. 

If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Australia today, you have just a 12% chance of surviving. Key to surviving the disease is early detection, yet there is currently no way to ensure this happens. There is no scan, blood test, urine test or screening that you can do to detect whether pancreatic cancer is lurking. So what options are we left with? 

Knowing the symptoms. 

Again, we’re up against a barrier. Because the symptoms are so mundane and so generic that many other conditions are often blamed. Doctors often go through various other tests before they even think to check for pancreatic cancer. This needs to change. And this is what WPCD is all about. Changing the perception. 

Pancreatic cancer DOES NOT have to be a death sentence. As each and every day passes, more and more research is being done, and more clinical trials are becoming available. The more research that is done, and the more clinical trials that make their way through the system, the faster we’ll be able to figure out how best to combat this cancer. Even the research or clinical trials that fail are important because they eliminate the options that won’t work. 

So when your friend or family member turns to you and says, ‘please, oh please will you wear something purple’ or ‘please share our posts on social media’ or ‘please help me raise awareness by understanding the symptoms’ … listen. Don’t let someone you love be diagnosed too late. 

All we ask is this: when you wake up, put on something purple. And when asked why you’re wearing such a ravishing colour, hit your colleagues or the people who stop you in the street with the statistics. Use every opportunity as a learning one. Talk about it. The more we talk, the more people will be forced to listen. 

With so few survivors, it’s up to us – the families and friends – to be their voice. WE SURVIVED. So let’s make it count. Let’s make our voices heard. And let’s make the lives of those we lost matter. Because every life lost is a life too many. And it’s up to us to ensure the next person diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survives. 

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