World Pancreatic Cancer Day

November 21, 2019

Dear Friends,

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and November 21st is World Pancreatic Cancer Day. In recent years, our North Texas community has lost three iconic leaders and civic pioneers to this terrible disease: Ms. Dionne Bagsby, Ms. Erma Johnson Hadley, and Mr. Nelson Rodriguez. Before the disease personally touched my life, I understood Pancreatic Cancer to simply be one of the many forms of cancer that affected people around the world. What I have come to learn since the passing of my dear friends is that Pancreatic Cancer has a story all its own—and it needs to be told.

Pancreatic Cancer disproportionally affects certain populations in our nation. Most concerning is the disease’s impact on African-Americans. The rate of Pancreatic Cancer incidence in African-American women is more than 14 diagnoses per 100,000 people, far outpacing American women of all races combined by nearly 28 percent. African-American men and women have the highest incidence and death rates among all ethnic and racial groups. This personally and deeply troubles me. Pancreatic Cancer is a form of cancer that produces a cancerous mass that originates on the Pancreas and often spreads to surrounding vital organs in close proximity. The tremendous threat posed by Pancreatic Cancer is two-fold. First, this quick-moving and aggressive disease is rarely detected in the early stages, which lessens the ability of the medical community to successfully treat the cancer. Further, the five-year survival rates of the cancer are abysmal with only nine percent of patients surviving to the milestone. More clearly, of the nearly 57,000 adults in the United States that will be diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer this year, only 5,100 will still be alive in 2024….only 5,100 moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and grandparents.

Our military veterans also suffer from the disease at higher incidence rates. For example, nurses serving in Vietnam were found to have a two to five-fold higher risk of pancreatic cancer death compared with non-deployed U.S. military women. Overall, military veterans are at higher risk of Pancreatic Cancer given their higher rates of developing illnesses related to lifestyles, such as smoking, a commonly known risk factor.Pancreatic Cancer also has disproportionate prevalence rates in certain states across the nation. For example, our home state of Texas has the third highest number of diagnoses and deaths associated with the disease this year. Experts forecast that some 3,990 Texans will be diagnosed and another 3,030 will succumb to the disease this year.

This cause is deeply personal for me. With the help of groups like the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, I worked to provide dedicated funding for ongoing Pancreatic Cancer research in this year’s House Defense Appropriations bill and will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to provide adequate funding for this very important cause. Too many families are affected by this terrible disease each day and this has to change.Medical advancements in the discovery and treatment of the disease have been elusive. Despite millions of dollars in funding and years of focused research, there is still no standard early detection strategy and limited effective treatment options.   


Kay Granger