Melinda Thach of Ames, a volunteer for the Des Moines affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, says 80% of cancer research dollars comes from the federal government. “We’ve come a long way in support for pancreatic cancer and the information that’s out there, the data that’s being gathered, the tests that are being done, developing new drugs and new ways to treat pancreatic cancer,” Thach says. “Ideally, we’ll eventually find a good early detection method but all of that takes research funding.”
Thach, who lost her mother to the disease, says research funding for pancreatic cancer has risen in recent years, but it’s dwarfed by the amount of money funneled to certain other cancers. Pancreatic cancer remains one of the deadliest forms, as 70% of those who are diagnosed die within a year.
“Pancreatic cancer’s survival rate right now is 9%,” Thach says. “Most people who are diagnosed, it is diagnosed after it has spread and their life expectancy is very brief. My mom, it was only 13 days. Most people, it’s like three-and-a-half months. If people make it past a year, they’ve got a good chance of making it to five years but you just never know.” While colon and lung cancer remain the top cancer killers, pancreatic cancer is a rising threat.
“Right now, it is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death,” Thach says. “Based on the current trends of pancreatic cancer continuing to rise and lung cancer continuing to fall, it’s looking like it will become the second-deadliest cancer by 2020.” More people now die from pancreatic cancer than breast cancer. While pancreatic cancer research got 152-million federal dollars in 2016, breast cancer research got 516-million.
The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 9% versus 91% for breast cancer. An estimated 580 Iowans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and 430 of them will die from it.