Every year during the month of October, we are bombarded by pink ribbon efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. As 1 in 6 women will be diagnosed with some stage of this disease in their lifetime, this is a much-needed effort to eradicate a disease that has touched so many families.
Updates from research teach us that by not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a schedule of regular checkups, we stand the best chance of surviving if we are one of the unfortunate people to develop breast cancer.
But have you ever wondered how different types of cancer compare in their funding? Lung cancer, which is the most common form of cancer, receives less than half the amount that goes to breast cancer. When I checked a chart with survival rates, the 20 year survival stats for breast cancer stand at 65%. That same rate for lung cancer is 6.5%.
Pancreatic cancer, one of the most devastating types of cancer, isn’t even in the top ten for funding as it affects fewer people....1 in 76. But the survival rate for these patients for even 5 years after diagnosis is a stark 4%. It is a virtual death sentence, because it is such a silent disease. By the time symptoms appear, the disease is so far advanced that most treatment has little or no effect on its progress.
Cancer is also the most common cause of death by disease in children. One in 300 children will develop some form of cancer before their 20th birthday.
So should cancer funding be focused on the most common or most deadly forms of this disease? And what makes fundraising efforts so successful in the case of breast cancer vs. other cancers?
The recent passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs serves as a ugly reminder of how relentless this disease is. The lack of affordable methods to both screen for this disease and treat it effectively suggest that we should be asking Congress to pass the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act for the funding necessary to make progress against this disease.
As a 16-year, stage 3 breast cancer survivor, I’m grateful for the research that contributed to saving my life. Let’s push for the same sort of support to fight forms of cancer that even the brilliant Apple innovator’s millions couldn’t save him from.