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Congress Needs To Lead In the Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer


Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer.  The disease does not get very much attention, but it is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.  The statistics are simply staggering: 74 percent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within the first year of diagnosis.  Next, 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012 and more than 37,000 will die from the disease.  Perhaps most shocking is that the five year relative survival rate for this disease is just six percent, which makes it the only major cancer with a five-year survival rate still in the single digits.  Most importantly, while overall cancer incidence and death rates are declining, new pancreatic cancer cases are expected to increase by 55 percent between 2010 and 2030 and the death rate is also increasing. In Wisconsin, more than 800 new cases are diagnosed annually. Also, over 700 deaths from pancreatic cancer occur in Wisconsin every year.


What does this mean?  It means that we need to act now.  Congress must pass the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act (S. 362/H.R. 733) before thousands more pass away from the disease.  We are engaged in a battle and successful battles require plans.  It’s time for our elected officials to step up to the plate and ensure that there is a real plan to combat pancreatic cancer.


Pancreatic cancer is rarely detected in its early stages and usually only detected after the disease reaches an advanced state.  More research is needed to understand how and why the disease occurs in the first place.  At this time, there are no early detection methods, and most symptoms are commonly attributed to many benign and different conditions, further complicating diagnosis of the disease.  There are few effective treatments at this time.   


All of this means lost lives.  It also means we must and can do much more.   


As someone who has lost two loved ones, my mother-in-law and sister-in law within 6 months of each other in 2010, I can say that I will not accept that Congress has not acted on this bill. My wife and her remaining siblings are at a heightened risk of contracting this disease and undergo an endoscopy on an annual basis so that treatment could begin early if a tumor is discovered.   Pancreatic cancer is a silent, destructive and debilitating disease and Congress should and must act on this legislation that is so desperately needed and has such strong bi-partisan support. 


While I understand there are many important issues before our elected representatives in the nation’s capital as we are a nation at war and our economy continues to struggle mightily, how we address devastating diseases such as pancreatic cancer that affect so many average Americans says a lot about our country.


For years, pancreatic cancer research has been grossly underfunded.  Though it is a leading killer, just two percent of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) annual research budget is dedicated to pancreatic cancer.  That’s simply not enough funding to make a real impact in fighting the disease and discovering effective treatments. 


Congress needs to wake up, open its eyes and realize that action must quickly be taken.  We have a responsibility to do everything we can to help those in need.  That is why members of the Senate and House must move expeditiously and pass the Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act, which would create a national strategic plan to combat this disease.  Readers can support this legislation by participating in National Call-In on June 26th. Visit to obtain additional information.


Pancreatic cancer is an affliction that needs a plan of action to make gains in saving American lives.  If we don't act now, more and more of our fellow citizens will needlessly lose their lives.

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