Pancreatic cancer rates rise and local activists are stepping up to find a cure

Around Town

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Pancreatic cancer diagnoses and deaths are up 5 percent and 2-1/2 percent respectively from last year.

In all, 60,430 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year and 48,220 people will die from the disease in 2021.

Mary Ellen Smith, the Executive Director of the Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York, discussed the troubling trend and local efforts to find a cure for the disease Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“It’s still a matter of early detection and research so that’s what we’re all about is trying to fund those vital research efforts that are being done locally,” said Smith. “This disease is just relentless and it’s not stopping so we have to really do a lot more to understand it at the cellular nature so that we can get ahead of it. The doctors that we’re supporting at the Wilmot Cancer Institute are doing a phenomenal job with their research efforts.”

Smith lost her mother to pancreatic cancer in 2009. As part of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, the Pancreatic Cancer Association of Western New York will host the 12th annual “Step It Up! Cure Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Walk” virtually November 1-20. “We are going to do it virtually,” Smith said. “It’s a three-week event like we held last year. We’re going to have some fun and surprises along the way with activities. We have a scavenger hunt BINGO for the kids. We painted purple awareness rocks last year and hid them. They have not all been found so we’re hoping people will find those on their walks along the canal or in parks and post pictures of them. We’ll have some other mini-fundraisers throughout the three weeks as well, so if you’re not able to walk you can still support us in one of the other events. We have some Bill Gray’s events. We have Chipotle. Donut Delite will be doing a custom donut for us – who doesn’t love Donut Delite, right? So we have a bunch of things going on so that you can participate in any way. With the walk, we are kicking off November 1 and it goes through November 20 and you can do it any time that’s convenient for you. As we say, walk, run, roll, or stroll. It doesn’t really matter where you walk. Who you walk for matters.”

You can see the Kickoff on the PCAWNY Facebook page on Monday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m. There will be auction items to bid for online as well. The online registration is $10 for individuals or a team. Visit PCAWNY.org to register and get more information.

Smith said the Step Challenge is back as part of the Walk as well. “This year the steps are up. It is based on the number of people who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year. So this challenge is a 60,430 step challenge. Any steps you take – whether you’re on the treadmill, walking around the office, or walking on the canal – count any of those steps. It is to make you think. Every step you take is tied back to somebody who is being told this year that they have pancreatic cancer. I think it averages out to about 30 miles, but you’ve got three weeks so we know you can do it!”

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