Imagine being diagnosed with a disease that would likely take your life in a year or less.
Unfortunately, that is the reality for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; 74 percent of patients die within one year of diagnosis. Sadly, the disease has a five-year survival rate of just 6 percent, the lowest among major cancers.
What is worse is that there has been little progress in detecting and treating pancreatic cancer.
Since the passage of the National Cancer Act more than 40 years ago, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer has improved only from 2 to 6 percent. By comparison, the five-year survival rate for all cancers currently stands at an impressive 67 percent.
Pancreatic cancer is so deadly because there are no early detection methods to diagnose the disease in its early stages, and there are no effective treatment options to treat the disease once it’s been diagnosed.
My cousin — Dick Bowman, a vibrant health care administrator — passed away in 2006 at the age of 58 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. Currently, my dear friend’s mother is near death after being diagnosed in January with pancreatic cancer.
Fortunately, there is hope. Currently, Congress is debating the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act (S. 362/H.R.733), which would require the National Cancer Institute to create a long-term and comprehensive strategic plan to address pancreatic cancer, with the goal of improving early detection methods and developing new treatment options.
If Congress gets behind this bill, pancreatic cancer patients will finally have more options, and ultimately more hope.