Fundraiser fights back against quiet cancer
"You have pancreatic cancer."
For most who hear those words, it's a death sentence.
It was for Delaware resident Stephanie Bennett's 33-year-old best friend.
"By the time she found out she had pancreatic cancer, it was in the late stages and it was too late for her," she said. "There are no early detections, which makes it one of the deadliest cancers."
Bennett is the event coordinator for the Columbus Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and said she is determined to change the survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients.
According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 43,920 Americans are estimated to be diagnosed with this disease in 2012, and 37,390 of them will die from it.
The organization wants to double the survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients, from 6 percent to 12 percent, by the year 2020 by raising money to fund research for early detection and more-effective treatment options.
"Right now, it's one of the most devastating pieces of news you could hear," she said. "We can change that so significantly that people can have hope."
One of the ways the group raises money is through the PurpleStride 5K/2 mile walk. The fourth annual walk will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at Bicentennial Park, Civic Center Drive and West Rich Street in downtown Columbus.
The cost is $25 if participants register online by Wednesday, Aug. 1, $30 the day of the event.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., a ceremony starts at 10 a.m. and the actual walk/run steps off at 10:30 a.m.
In 2011, there were 750 participants and the group raised more than $65,000. This year, organizers hope to have 900 participants and raise $75,000. Bennett said there already are 20 percent more registered participants than there were at the same time last year.
She said the National Cancer Institute funds each cancer differently and each cancer is allocated a dollar amount to go toward research and treatment options.
Bennett said pancreatic cancer research is severely underfunded when compared to others.
"Every cancer is devastating, but this is a lot worse because there is no warning," she said. "Depending on who their doctor is, they may not even know to look for it."
Most pancreatic cancer patients complain of lower back pain in the beginning, and as the tumor grows in their pancreas and pushes on other organs, other symptoms come into play.
"Oftentimes they are diagnosed with an ulcer or other stomach ailments," Bennett said. "It isn't until the pain worsens that they discover it's a tumor."
Bennett said by the time the tumor is discovered, it is usually so large that only 15 percent of them are operable.
"The best-case scenario is that they are able to have the surgery, but most can't," she said. "We need to find ways to detect this earlier."
For more information about pancreatic cancer or to register for the event, visit purplestride.org and select the Columbus event.