Working to battle pancreatic cancer

Now that the election is over, I know all of us are getting to or have gotten to the point of COVID fatigue. I know I have. Like everyone else, I wish things would go back to “normal.” However, through all of this, people are still dying of all types of cancer.

In October each year, we are surrounded by pink and pink ribbons for Breast Cancer Awareness, even in 2020. 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, Oct. 4, 2007, the day 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.

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.

Just this year, pancreatic cancer claimed the lives of Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis in July, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, and MLB Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in October. This type of cancer also claimed the life of actors Patrick Swayze and Michael Landon, Apple Founder Steve Jobs, and the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin.

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 2020, an estimated 57,600 Americans will have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States, and more than 47,050 people will have died.

Pancreatic cancer has surpassed breast cancer and is now the third leading cause of cancer related-death.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and it would be wonderful if we could see just half the purple in November than that of pink in October. Specifically, Nov. 19 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 five-year survival rate has risen from 6% to 10%. This is not enough! We must all work together and 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 one day! I’m asking everyone who reads this to learn more about pancreatic cancer: go to www.pancan.org, and remember, wear purple Nov. 19.

Annette Fetty-Santilli

W.Va. Community Partner and National Volunteer

Advisory Committee


Pancreatic Cancer Action Network



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