By Angela Hickey
The month of November is known for being associated with cold weather, spices, and, of course, Thanksgiving. However, the start of November also welcomes the observance of multiple awareness causes such as awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes, and Pancreatic Cancer.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes the rapid degeneration of brain cells. Alzheimer’s, disrupts a person’s ability to function independently causing a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral, and social skills. Some early signs can be forgetting recent events or conversations.
People with Alzheimer’s may tend to repeat themselves, forget conversations or events, constantly misplace possessions, and in extreme cases lose memories of loved ones and even themselves. It also causes changes in mood and behavior, leading to depression and anxiety. So far, no cure has been discovered and treatments are very limited.
November was designated as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million. This rise in numbers causes many to wonder, what can I do to prevent Alzheimer’s?
Although Alzheimer’s is not preventable, there are still a few measures that can be taken to modify a number of lifestyle risk factors causing Alzheimer’s. According to MayoClinic.com, changes in diet, exercise, and certain habits can help lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other disorders that cause dementia. Certain studies have also shown that taking part in certain social events, creative activities, such as art or playing an instrument, or other activities that require mental and social engagement may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Diabetes Awareness Month also takes place during the month of November, with November 14th being World Diabetes Day.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, with an estimated 30 million people in the United States with diabetes and nearly 84 million adults at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association.
Individuals who develop diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke. Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart, and with the obesity epidemic rising in the United States, people are at higher risk of developing diabetes in life.
There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1, which is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or Type 2, which is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar or glucose. Type 2 diabetes tends to be much more common than Type 1 even though it tends to be milder medically.
So far doctors haven’t found a cure for diabetes, but there are many ways to prevent Type 2 diabetes from developing. By managing blood levels and cholesterol, being more physically active and, in certain cases, taking medication prescribed by a doctor, patients are able to prevent diabetes as well as reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month also takes place in the month of November, as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day takes place on November 21st. Becoming more well known in the diagnosis of Alex Trebek, the popular host of Jeopardy!, revealed his diagnosis in a short clip from the set on May 6th of this year.
Pancreatic Cancer is a disease in which malignant or cancerous cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, adenocarcinoma, along with many other types, begins in the exocrine cells in the pancreas. The malignant cells grow rapidly until they become out of control.
According to cancer.net, an estimated 56,770 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year. This disease is the cause of approximately 3% of all deaths in the United States, killing an estimated 45, 750 people this year alone. Pancreatic cancer alone accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, with the 5 year survival rate being only about 9%.
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is unknown, but there are certain risk factors that are strongly linked to the disease. Tobacco smoking and obesity are known to be linked to causing pancreatic cancer, also, people with a hereditary cancer syndrome or specific genetic mutations have a higher risk of developing the disease.
There are no definitive cures for pancreatic cancer, but other treatments, such as palliative radiation therapy, are used to shrink malignant tumors. Other palliative medical care can be used to reduce symptoms, such as nerve blocks to relieve pain. Chemotherapy and other clinical trials of chemotherapy, new anticancer therapies, or biologic therapy are also used as treatment.
November, being the month to raise awareness for multiple causes, teaches students and members of our community alike to learn about different conditions in order to better understand the obstacles that some people may be going through.