Understanding Pancreatic Cancer
- To get people excited for its PurpleStride event, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) has released a new public service announcement with beloved actress Mindy Kaling.
- Mindy Kaling’s mother, Dr. Swati Chokalingam, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, and in 2012, she passed away after a hard-fought battle with the disease.
- Dr. Allyson Ocean, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet that pancreatic cancer is soon to be the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
The PanCAN PurpleStride event is the organization’s “ultimate event to end pancreatic cancer,” which is also a cause near and dear to Kaling’s heart. In 2021, Kaling’s mother, Dr. Swati Chokalingam, 66, of Brighton, Massachusetts, passed away after a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer.Read More
The goal of this year’s event, which kicks off on Saturday, April 30, is to raise $16.5 million across 60 communities. And after two years of virtual events due to Covid-19, this year’s event will also be in person! About 70,000 participants are expected to attend. If you’re interested in participating in this year’s PurpleStride event, you can register for free here.
“PanCAN PurpleStride is a powerful community event giving everyone that has been affected by pancreatic cancer a meaningful opportunity to make an impact on this disease through greater awareness and fundraising,” Julie Fleshman, JD, MBA, president and chief executive officer of PanCAN said. “We continue to be grateful that Mindy Kaling chooses to honor her mother by lending her significant voice to this cause and campaign.”
“The pandemic caused so much isolation, so I am looking forward to being with other people again, particularly those whose families know the battle and struggles of a family member with pancreatic cancer,” Mindy Kaling said. “I am excited to meet people who have been through the same thing as me and have the same will and drive to help end this disease.”
Mindy Kaling’s Mother’s Cancer Battle
Mindy Kaling’s mother, Dr. Swati Chokalingam, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011, and in 2012, she passed away after a hard-fought battle with the disease.
“She (my mom) went to the doctor with a backache (in 2011) and was told that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” Kaling told The View in 2020. “And we had no family history of it, and she was gone eight months later.”
She went on to add that she’s partnered with PanCAN “because this is a devastating illness.”
While on The View in 2020, Kaling also shared some intimate advice her mom gave her, which has served her well over the years.
“My mom gave me a ton of advice,” she said, “but the advice I remember almost daily is that you have to be your own best friend. You know, I didn’t really understand that. And when I went through my destructive periods in my 20s and even in my early 30s, whether it was falling in love with the wrong person, or not taking care of myself physically, that advice has always shocked myself back into better behavior.”
“And that’s advice that I would give my daughter as well.”
Understanding Pancreatic Cancer
Dr. Anirban Maitra, of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, previously told SurvivorNet that because the pancreas is inside the abdomen, “it often doesn’t have symptoms that would tell you that something is wrong with your pancreas … by the time individuals walk into the clinic with symptoms like jaundice, weight loss, back pain or diabetes, it’s often very late in the stage of the disease.” And that’s exactly what happened to Mindy Kaling’s mother.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 62,210 people will be diagnosed with this type of cancer in 2022, and about 49,830 people will die from it, which is to Maitra’s point that “most people will die from this disease within a few months to a year or so from the diagnosis,” he said.
“The reason for that is that most individuals, about 80 percent, will actually present with what we called advanced disease (or metastatic), which means that the cancer has either spread beyond the pancreas or into other organs like the liver, and so you cannot take it out with surgeries,” he added.
Dr. Allyson Ocean explains why pancreatic cancer is so hard to treat.
Dr. Allyson Ocean, a medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet that pancreatic cancer is soon to be the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
“Mortality is rising because it’s caught so late,” she said, “and we don’t have enough effective medications against the cancer.”
So, the question in front of oncologists today is: “How can we detect this disease earlier in the process so we can have a better impact on the survival of our patients?” Maitra said.