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Pancreatic Cancer is Silent Killer in the Black Community; What You Can Do To Beat It

PurpleStride Walk to be Held at Florida Atlantic University Sunday November 17th to Raise Funds for Patient Care; November is National Pancreatic Awareness Month

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive and silent killer that will become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States by 2020 – with only a 5-year survival rate of just 9 percent. 

But, in the black community, the prognosis is even worse. Black Americans have the highest pancreatic cancer incidence and death rates out of all ethnic and racial groups in the entire country – up to 67 percent higher, according to the National Cancer Institute SEER data.

Recent studies have shown that this disparity in diagnosis among Black Americans is due to several factors not related to genetics, including socioeconomic circumstances and disparities in care. Overall, Black Americans are often diagnosed with late-stage, inoperable tumors – and are often less likely to receive surgery than any other group.

Despite these astounding and tragic facts, this is something that is often not spoken about publicly. However, the diagnosis of high-profile individuals such as local Congressman Alcee Hastings – who has been receiving treatment for Stage 4 pancreatic cancer since January – has begun to put a spotlight on this deadly disease and the havoc its unleashing in the black community. 

Why is Pancreatic Cancer so deadly?

Pancreatic cancer in general is a sneaky and silent killer because in the early stages there are no symptoms. Even in the later stages when there are symptoms these tend to be non-specific, such as lack of appetite and weight loss, which are often dismissed. This leads to late detection and misdiagnosis. And by then, it’s often too late.

For Black Americans, this bleak reality is often compounded by the fact that there is an equity gap in health care. Here are some examples of how the equity gap affects Black Americans according to the Common Wealth Fund.

Taking Action

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) is a nonprofit organization that is highlighting the discrepancies in pancreatic cancer incidence and death rates and working to ensure that people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are aware of treatment options, including clinical trials, and have access to the best care. 

It’s a matter of life and death that we start talking and learning more about this deadly disease and how its impacting the black community. 

So, what help is out there?

PanCAN has a Patient Central network committed to providing all types of resources for people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and their caregivers. 

Patient Central can help you: 

  • Learn about risk factors 
  • Understand your diagnosis 
  • Learn about available treatment options, including clinical trials 
  • Locate a pancreatic cancer specialist in your area 
  • Determine if our Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service is a good fit for you 
  • Enroll in our Patient Registry to help move pancreatic cancer research forward 
  • Connect with other survivors and caregivers 

If you or a loved one has pancreatic cancer, contact Patient Central via 877-2-PANCAN or

How Can the Local Community Support People with Pancreatic Cancer?

This month, the local PanCAN Broward-Palm Beach affiliate is hosting its annual PurpleStride Broward-Palm Beach 2019 Presented by Memorial Cancer Institute to raise funds for patient care, early detection research, and clinical trials. The walk is happening at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on Sunday, November 17, 2019. 

Those interested, can join or donate via

This Op-Ed was written by Joelle Hervis. Hy-Lo News allows and encourages South Florida community members, thought leaders, social commentators, experts, etc., to submit commentary that expresses their opinion and share their point of view. To submit your writing click here.

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