Lung, Bladder & Pancreatic Cancer

Blog by Will P. of the Southeastern Region Campus Leadership Team

For the past several weeks, I have been working on organizing an “Amazing Relayer” fundraiser on Lafayette’s campus. The concept for the fundraiser is similar to the show, The Amazing Race, as participants in both race to complete activities in order to win. The idea of doing it as a Relay For Life fundraiser started (as far as I know) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and I have been basing my event off of theirs.

I wanted our event to be fun and enticing, obviously, but I also wanted to use it as a form of cancer education. I wanted to help spread cancer facts that most people are unaware of, even though they are important in terms of risk factors and prevention for different types of cancer.  In my research for the event, I came across some facts and information that even I was unaware of, so I thought it would be beneficial and interesting to share some of these facts, as well as other lesser-known tidbits, with the rest of the Campus Relay World. 

Everyone knows that smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, but there’s actually a lot more to it than that. I mean A LOT more to it. To start, smoking isn’t just connected to lung cancer. It is also strongly connected to esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon and rectum cancers. 

Building off of that, lung cancer is not just caused by smoking. In fact, roughly 20,000 people die of lung cancer every year after never touching a cigarette. There is an unfortunate stigma surrounding lung cancer where people believe that everyone who has lung cancer smoked, and therefore they brought it upon themselves. Lung cancer is also one of the least funded types of cancers, in part due to this stigma. Organizations like the American Lung Association and Lung Cancer Alliance are working to dispel this stigma. The second leading cause of lung cancer, which most people are unaware of, is exposure to radon, which is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and radioactive gas. The only way to know of the presence of radon is to test for it, which can actually be done fairly easily. You can buy tests online and have results within 1-2 weeks. 

Moving on, I found that pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates. The risk factors for pancreatic cancer aren’t unusual. Smoking, older age, obesity, genetics and diabetes top most lists for risk factors, and yet all have been linked to many different types of cancer. Different diseases, like pancreatitis, have sometimes been linked to pancreatic cancer as well. Ninety-five percent of all pancreatic cancers begin in exocrine cells, which produce digestive enzymes, and the other five percent start in endocrine cells, which produce hormones. Because pancreatic cancer can start in either type of cell, and the cells have completely different functions, the symptoms for the two types of pancreatic cancer are very different. Jaundice, weight loss and back and abdomen pain are a few common symptoms for cancer that starts in the exocrine cells. Sweating, rapid heart rate, and nausea are just a few symptoms for cancer that starts in the endocrine cells. 

Another interesting thing I learned was about bladder cancer. It doesn’t create the kind of buzz that lung and breast cancers do, yet it is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States. Although it can be hard to determine the cause, bladder cancer is many times caused by parasitic infection or environmental issues. One example of an environmental issue is arsenic in a water supply. There is strong evidence that relates arsenic exposure to bladder cancer. This, like radon, can also be tested for with some fairly inexpensive tests that can be purchased online. 

Now here are some shorter, but still not well known, cancer facts:

  • A study released a few years ago illustrated that sleep deprivation could lead to more polyps in a person’s colon and an increased cancer risk.
  • According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning (419,000) than lung cancer cases due to smoking. 
  • For most cases of liver cancer, the cause is unknown. 
  • Testicular cancer has the highest survival rate, while pancreatic has the lowest. 
  • Certain trained dogs have been able to smell cancers! Seriously.  MIND. BLOWN. And they’re accurate about 90-95% of the time, which is better than some lab tests. Get it? Lab? Because of some dogs… Nevermind. It’s a real statistic. 

Well, I hope this blog has taught you something about cancer that you didn’t know before. If you have any questions about specific facts or statistics, or are interested in also doing an “Amazing Relayer” fundraiser, let me know. Shoot me an email at pfadenwill@gmail.com. 

Sources: American Cancer Society, NIH National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Skin Cancer Foundation, CNN.