Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day is Thursday, Nov. 16. On this day, five years ago, my mother-in-law was undergoing treatment for this disease that was discovered just six weeks prior. The whites of her eyes turning yellow was the first sign that something was wrong. After working in a neonatal intensive care unit many years ago, I recognized jaundice. Then things began to add up. The digestive issues she believed were food-related were not what they appeared.
Pancreatic cancer is the 10th most common cancer and every day, more than 1,000 people are diagnosed. It’s estimated that by 2020, over 400,000 new cases will appear. You may ask who is at risk! Smokers have an increased risk with three out of ten cases linked to smoking. Second hand smoke is also harmful. Being overweight and a lack of exercise are additional risk factors. Maybe you’re thinking that you aren’t exposed to smoking, are a healthy weight and get regular exercise. This is great news because lifestyle has a great deal to do with our health. Besides the obvious advice of eating clean, getting enough rest/sleep/recovery and moving our body, there are other considerations. Studies show that environmental toxins influence the onset, growth and progression of cancer, in general. Many are within our control and we reduce our risk and enhance our immune system with the choices we make.
Speaking of our environment…Did you know that the average newborn has over 250 chemicals in his/her umbilical cord blood? These include flame retardants, pesticides, heavy metals and more. These toxins damage the nervous system and increase the risk of cancer. As we age, we continue to be exposed to a variety of unhealthy substances. What can we do? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an excellent resource to discover ways to empower your knowledge and decrease your exposure. There's a great consumer guide to assist you with the choices you make.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, where can you find support? There are some excellent organizations and resources that can assist you in broadening your awareness. One national organization is Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). PanCAN provides services and supports research regarding this disease. There is also PurpleStride and they offer a local 5K walk/run. The next local event in Raleigh, NC is in April 2018. You can also find more about World Pancreatic Cancer Day. As far as research and treatments, visit the American Cancer Society. These are just a few of the many resources both locally and globally.