4 months. From the time my dad was recognized with pancreatic cancer to the time that he died was simply 4 months. It’s arduous to imagine that greater than 21 years have handed since that have and the way it modified my private {and professional} ardour to create a world the place pancreatic most cancers sufferers can thrive. And whereas we nonetheless have a variety of work to do, there have been steady incremental advances during the last 20 years — most just lately, developments within the position of genetic and tumor testing for sufferers and relations — that give me purpose to be very hopeful about what lies forward and the chance to considerably change affected person outcomes.

Like most, I knew little or no about pancreatic most cancers earlier than my father’s prognosis, however as quickly as I heard these phrases, I went on-line and shortly discovered there was a lack of knowledge, sources, and analysis dedicated to the illness. Again then, little or no was recognized about pancreatic most cancers — solely a handful of researchers had been learning it and the 5-year survival fee was simply 4%. I used to be indignant that my dad and hundreds of different sufferers got no hope. They had been provided no therapy choices and despatched residence to get their affairs so as.

That hopelessness and anger impressed me to take motion, and shortly after my father died, I found the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) in 1999, a newly shaped group at the time. I started my journey with PanCAN as a volunteer and was employed because the group’s first full-time worker in 2000. In my position as president and CEO, I’m honored to have the chance to work with the pancreatic most cancers neighborhood and I’ve watched PanCAN change into the driving pressure for accelerating progress: funding over $149M in pancreatic most cancers analysis thus far, supporting sufferers and their households by means of our Affected person Providers program, and constructing a passionate and energetic neighborhood of volunteers and advocates who’re elevating funds and consciousness to drive our mission.

I’ve all the time been impressed by affected person advocates, witnessing firsthand what sufferers and their households do for PanCAN in honor of their family members to vary the long run for pancreatic most cancers sufferers, however I had a newfound realization concerning the significance of affected person advocates after I turned a affected person myself.

In 2018, I used to be recognized with breast cancer, found throughout a routine mammogram. I contemplate myself exceptionally lucky — my prognosis was early-stage due to breast most cancers screening — and after surgical procedure, I used to be cancer-free. I additionally had genetic testing finished, which is commonplace for breast most cancers sufferers, to find out what therapies is likely to be greatest for me and to know my household’s danger of sure sorts of most cancers. After that have, I used to be so extremely grateful to the breast most cancers advocates who had come earlier than me and pushed for early detection and higher therapies for the illness.

This expertise bolstered how necessary it’s to rejoice the incremental advances being made yearly for pancreatic most cancers sufferers as a result of I do know with every bit of recent info, we unlock the mysteries of this difficult illness.

Resulting from advances in analysis, it’s now advisable that every one pancreatic most cancers sufferers get genetic testing for inherited most cancers mutations and biomarker testing of their tumor to find out their greatest therapy choices. And for the primary time, new tips launched by the Nationwide Complete Most cancers Community (NCCN) point out that figuring out your genetic danger could also be necessary for relations who’ve had just one first-degree relative recognized with pancreatic most cancers. It is very important perceive your danger, keep knowledgeable, and be your personal greatest advocate.

November is Pancreatic Most cancers Consciousness Month and PanCAN is emphasizing the significance of testing for each sufferers and their households. Data is energy, and we would like folks to take three easy steps that might save their lives: speak, check, and take management.

For first-degree family of pancreatic most cancers sufferers, we suggest that you just speak to your physician or genetic counselor that will help you perceive whether or not it is best to have genetic testing. PanCAN Affected person Providers may also help you put together for that dialog.

For these already recognized with pancreatic most cancers, PanCAN strongly recommends genetic testing for inherited mutations as quickly as doable after prognosis, which may also help inform relations of their very own danger in addition to probably influence the affected person’s therapy choices. We additionally suggest that every one pancreatic most cancers sufferers obtain biomarker testing of their tumor tissue by means of a precision medication service like PanCAN’s Know Your Tumor to know if their tumor biology might assist inform therapy choices.

Right this moment, pancreatic most cancers sufferers and their households have extra info and choices than when my father was recognized with the illness. And I’ve little question that with the continued relentless effort of PanCAN advocates, there might be a day sooner or later when somebody is recognized with pancreatic most cancers early as a result of there may be an early detection check and cured as a result of there are new therapies. Within the meantime, every day we’re taking steps that speed up the speed of progress. Speak, check, and take management. Three easy steps that present info and empowerment now for pancreatic most cancers sufferers and their households. Be taught extra at pancan.org.

Julie Fleshman is president and CEO of the Pancreatic Most cancers Motion Community.

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