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Purple Stride Philly to Fight Pancreatic Cancer

Lisa-Swaize---Pancreatic-Cancer-WalkOn Saturday, November 3, representatives from the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at PAH, Pennsylvania Oncology and Hematology Associates, the Department of Surgery and Radiation Oncology participated Purple Stride Philadelphia 2012 to help raise awareness and funds in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network® and held in Fairmount Park, the 5K walk and timed run raised over $500,000.

Chief Ambassador of Hope, Lisa Niemi Swayze (shown speaking) joined the Philly event on honor of her late husband, Patrick Swayze, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2009.

Also in attendance was Lisa Niemi Swayze, chief Ambassador of Hope of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Swayze joined the Network as its first celebrity spokesperson in honor of her late husband, Patrick Swayze, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2009 - after a nearly two-year battle with the disease.

The Philadelphia affiliate of the Pancreatic Action Network holds monthly support meetings. If you would like to volunteer, please visit If you or someone you know is newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) program provides comprehensive, free information and support for pancreatic cancer patients, their families and health professionals.  Contact PALS at:  877-272-6226 or

For many, the first time they heard about pancreatic cancer may have been when, Patrick Swayze or Apple CEO, Steve Jobs was diagnosed. But it is not as rare as you may think. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

The pancreas is an organ that is located behind the stomach, it plays an essential role in converting the food we eat into energy for the body’s cells. The pancreas actually has two main functions; the first function is to secrete enzymes to aid in the digestion of protein, fat and carbohydrates and the second function is to create and release insulin, a hormone responsible for lowering blood sugar and glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar.

Sadly, because of the pancreas’ hidden location in the body, pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed late state, making in one of the deadliest forms of cancer. This year, an estimated 43,920 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States and approximately 37,390 will die from the disease. 

Risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer include:

  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Age
  • Chronic or hereditary pancreatitis
  • Recent-onset of diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being over- weight, especially in the abdomen.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that being lean can prevent 19 percent of the pancreatic cases that occur in the United States each year. Pancreatic cancer is easily concealed; it may cause only vague symptoms that could be mistaken for many different conditions within the gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when it the tumor can be surgically removed, this is one of the main reasons pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death.

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