The Hirshberg Foundation’s pioneering research efforts in pancreatic cancer is driven by the countless families and faces in need of services and support everyday. When we evaluate the needs of our community from a scientific perspective or simply a place of compassion, one thing is evident: one group is disproportionaly affected by this disease. April, National Minority Health Month, is an opportunity to continue a dialogue on how we can better support Black Americans at highest risk for pancreatic cancer.
Although Black Americans account for 13.4% of the U.S., the third largest population, it is still a community facing the greatest obstacles to prevent, detect, treat and survive pancreatic cancer. Risk factors from smoking, diabetes and weight are difficult hurdles for many Americans. However, socioeconomic factors can also impact a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and the reality that many Black Americans report racial discrimination at health provider visits makes those hurdles even higher.
Too often Black Americans are diagnosed at later stages, are underrepresented in clinical trials and even when pancreatic cancer is discovered early, patients are less likely to receive surgery than any other racial group in the U.S.
We strive to improve outcomes for these fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, cousins and grandparents, generations of families at high risk for this disease. The community has a 20% higher incidence of pancreatic cancer and faces a higher burden for overcoming chronic conditions that can lead to this disease. Communication and community are key to elevate awareness and reach families unaware of the risks. Talking about risks & symptoms, sharing patient & family resources for medical interventions and uniting our community are some of the steps we can take together.
To prevent this disease from rooting itself deeper, we must remain dedicated to increasing awareness across the country and the globe; share research progress and current medical treatments available; further diversify clinical trials through representation; educate patients and caregivers; and address the urgency for equity in the healthcare system.
The following are resources that could help save the lives of family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers in the Black American community:
- Hirshberg Foundation – Patient & Family Educational Webinars
- American Cancer Society – Health Disparities Research
- FDA – Racial and Ethnic Minorities in Clinical Trials
- National Institutes of Health – Clinical Trial List
The United States is comprised of a blend of unique ancestry, ethnicities and cultures diverse in every way. Our approach to healthcare, prevention and community outreach is not one-size-fits-all. We will continue to advocate for all families, patients and high-risk communities so no one fights pancreatic cancer alone.