Lisa Peyton-Caire, Founding Editor
Information. Inspiration. Empowerment. Holiday News Brief November 21, 2006
SisterSpeak Reader Speaks Out About Pancreatic Cancer
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and SisterSpeak reader Christine Haynes wants you to be aware. You may remember Christine from an earlier issue of SisterSpeak. She is an award winning jewelry designer, as well as a passionate pancreatic cancer awareness advocate.
"Pancreatic cancer changed my life forever when my mother, June Fehsenfeld, was diagnosed on Thanksgiving day in 1996," Haynes said. "She passed away just a few weeks later on December 16. We had no idea it would move so fast."
Since her mother's death, Christine has been actively involved in the movement to bring greater awareness to the public about pancreatic cancer. As a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), she also works diligently to raise money in hopes that her efforts and those of other PanCAN members results in an eventual cure for the disease, and better early detection and treatment methods.
Research indicates that African Americans are at higher risk for developing pancreatic cancer perhaps due to higher rates of smoking and economic factors. Men are at greater risk than women, as are smokers, and persons with diabetes and chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). The disease is also more prevalent in the Jewish population than in other groups.
The daunting problem the disease presents is that little is known about its causes or how to prevent it, other than to avoid smoking, drinking, and poor diet. If your family has a history of the disease, this should serve as a potential, though not definite warning of its threat to you. What's worse, Christine shared with me, is that there are no tests currently available that definitively detect pancreatic cancer, making it very difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are often mistaken as other ailments, as was the case with her mother. Some sufferers show no symptoms at all. As a result, survival rates are typically low as detection rarely happens at the onset of the illness, though there are exceptions. Because of this, early detection and treatment are the best defenses against a fatal diagnosis. But much research and funding is needed to develop these advances.
Pancreatic cancer has impacted three generations of women in Christine's family, a rarity, as women are less likely than men to develop the condition. As a result, she is ever mindful of the disease's potential impact on her and her children. But she's not standing on the sidelines.
"I'm hopeful. We know more today than we knew when my mother was diagnosed. I may not see it in my lifetime, but if the little I can do to make others aware and to raise money can result in better early detection, it would be worth it. And I have to do this for my babies, to save their lives. To see detection in my lifetime would be a major victory.
" Read more about PanCAN and its efforts to spread awareness and work for a cure at the PanCAN Web Site .Click here to read more about Christine Haynes...
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