Our Charities, Our Choices:

Updated: Nov 23, 2019

This year more people will die from pancreatic cancer than from breast or prostate cancer. While other cancers are declining, pancreatic is on the rise. Each year the number of new cases increases. This has been happening for the last 10 years. Despite these figures, most people ignore it. By and large, supporters of pancreatic cancer aren't random individuals who decide to advocate just because they hear it's growing and has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers. They are advocates because they have somehow been affected by this disease. I know because I was one of those who ignored it until my life was affected.

Why did I not donate or give my time before my aunt was diagnosed in April 2018 and father-in-law in August 2018? The answer is tough. I made an uninformed, careless decision to ignore. I knew two things about pancreatic cancer: It is usually caught in the last stages, and it is lethal. Knowing this, I asked myself why give money to such a bleak cause? Wasn't it more important to give to a disease where people had a chance? I didn't realize my lack of response contributed to late stage detection and low survival rate because without advocacy and funding every cancer and disease would be in the same situation.

A study published by Northwestern Medicine in July (Comparison of Cancer Burden and Nonprofit Organization Funding) confirmed the deadliest cancers receive the least amount of funding. The explanation for why this happens varies. Here are a couple reasons.

The lack of public knowledge and awareness: This study suggested that donors' lack of understanding directly impacts support. Awareness leads to advocacy. Advocacy leads to funding. Funding advances treatment, and treatments save and extend lives.

Secondly, people give time and donate to causes that make them feel good. For example, breast cancer philanthropy is everywhere. We're inundated with corporate campaigns, local walks, and pink ribbons, so much so studies suggest giving to breast cancer charities generates a positive emotional response. If diagnosed in Stage I, survival rate is 99.5%. We all know survivors. Consequently, we feel like we are making a difference when we donate to such diseases. Ironically, we're more likely to make a difference when supporting diseases like pancreatic cancer (survival rate 9%) than with disease that has a survival rate of 90+%.

I'm convinced the only way to change pancreatic cancer is to spread the word. I hope you will consider doing so as well.

Stay tuned for my next blog coming later this week. It will focus on early warning signs and symptoms and how knowing these can mean the difference between qualifying for surgery (the only way this disease is cured) or Stage IV. I have real life examples that are very compelling.

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