Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month is a time to increase public understanding about Esophageal Cancer and the risk factors that can lead to this devastating disease. Esophageal Cancer has a dismal survival rate of less than 20 percent, largely because it is usually detected at late stages when treatment is rarely effective. New therapies currently under study are showing promise in treating this deadly disease and so we hope that brighter days are on the horizon for patients at risk for this disease. But, in addition to supporting the development of effective treatments and a cure, ECAN is dedicated to raising awareness about the risk factors that can lead to Esophageal Cancer so that patients can detect this disease at early, treatable stages – or even before it becomes cancer – so that more lives can be saved.
Two Types of Esophageal Cancer
Many people are aware that smoking and drinking can lead to cancer and both have been linked to one type of Esophageal Cancer called Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ESCC). Thankfully, that type of Esophageal Cancer is on the decline in the U.S. and most western nations. But the other type of Esophageal Cancer known as Esophageal Adenocarcinoma (EAC) has been increasing in the western world at explosive rates. It’s estimated that the cases of this type of Esophageal Cancer has increased more than 600 percent in the past four decades. Esophageal Adenocarcinoma is currently the fastest increasing cancer among American men. And it is caused by Reflux Disease, sometimes called Acid Reflux or GERD.
Awareness can Save Lives
Here’s the reason why awareness of this disease is so important: if Esophageal Cancer is caught at early stages, or in the case of EAC, before it even becomes cancer, patients’ chances to survive increase dramatically. A condition called Barrett’s Esophagus is the precursor to Esophageal Adenocarcinoma. It’s estimated that more than 3 million Americans currently have Barrett’s Esophagus – but only a small fraction of those patients are aware of those changes in their esophagus. That means millions of Americans have no idea that they have a condition that could mean they are as much as 40 times more likely to develop a deadly cancer. The reason it’s important to discover Barrett’s Esophagus before it becomes cancer is that when it’s in that precursor stage, this condition is highly treatable and most patients who undergo treatment for this condition never go on to develop Esophageal Cancer.
The History of Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month
ECAN worked to establish Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month because no such observance existed before ECAN was founded. It began with a proclamation in Maryland in 2009. Since then, ECAN has worked with supporters to gain recognition of EC Awareness Month in states throughout the U.S. – and even in other countries, too. With ECAN’s support over the past 6 years, more than 150 gubernatorial declarations of EC Awareness Month have been achieved throughout the country and in some other nations, as well. April is now observed as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month by companies, organizations and governments across the nation – and the world.
Tools to Save Lives
In 2011, ECAN also began providing our Reach Out kits with posters, brochures and wristbands to the public at no charge, creating a veritable army of awareness raisers working to save lives. ECAN has sent thousands of kits across the U.S. and to other nations. The feedback we receive tells us that it’s worth it – lives are saved when our supporters Reach Out to raise awareness about Esophageal Cancer and its link to Reflux Disease.
Order your Reach Out kit here.
Events that Make a Difference
ECAN has sponsored and supported multiple fundraising and awareness raising events around the country including walks, runs, bike rides, golf tournaments, dinners, library outreach, speaking events, art shows and more. ECAN volunteers have hosted more than 75 events to raise awareness across the U.S. and in other countries since 2010.
The Cancer Dancer – Taking Steps to Save Lives
In 2012, ECAN hosted the first gala in the U.S. ever to focus on Esophageal Cancer advocacy. Our event was called the Cancer Dancer and featured many talented dance troupes. But it was the moving speech our audience heard that made the evening spectacular. Our keynote speaker shared a compelling story about her own battle with Esophageal Cancer. ECAN was grateful to former Under Secretary of State and Congresswoman Ellen O’Kane Tauscher for her powerful words that evening and we remain grateful that she continues to be a trusted advisor to ECAN.
In 2013, the Cancer Dancer Gala honored the Greenebaum family’s efforts to create a world-class cancer center at the University of Maryland in Baltimore where Esophageal Cancer is treated with care and expertise. In 2014, the Cancer Dancer Gala went Hollywood with more than 300 guests and remarks by ECAN spokesman Stephen Bogart, the only son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Major Leagues & Major Cities
In April 2014, ECAN presented the first Esophageal Cancer Awareness event in professional sports at the Staples Center when the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers took on the Dallas Mavericks. Later that month, ECAN sponsored the first Esophageal Cancer Awareness race ever held in New York City; more than 1,000 attended the two-day festival that included a 5K, 10K and Half Marathon.
In 2015, ECAN launched its No Laughing Matter campaign – a public awareness effort that uses humor to help folks understand that reflux disease is a serious condition. The highlight of the campaign was An Evening with Jeff Foxworthy in Arlington, Virginia that brought a new audience to our message and entertained our supporters with a hilariously entertaining evening. Leading up to the event, ECAN hosted competitions in comedy clubs throughout the US providing up-and-coming comedians the chance to compete to be the opening act for Jeff Foxworthy and providing ECAN the opportunity to share a life-saving message to several major media markets and during entertaining nights out.
Reaching for the Stars
ECAN took awareness to new heights in 2015 with its Stories to Save Lives event in Los Angeles. More than 40 brave participants rappelled down 24 stories of the Hilton Universal City Hotel on behalf of someone who has faced Esophageal Cancer. As the participants descended the building, the stories of the individuals they represented rang out for all to hear. Two rappellers were EC survivors and a third was a patient battling Esophageal Cancer. This fun and moving day delivered a strong message about the importance of early detection and taking reflux disease seriously.
Fun and Games – and Awareness
In 2016, ECAN hosted its version of Hollywood Game Night with our Charm City Celebrity Game Night honoring a beloved and respected Baltimore television anchorman Jerry Turner lost to Esophageal Cancer in 1987. More than 20 on-air celebrities from eight television and radio stations competed to win the Jerry Turner Trophy, named for the Walter Cronkite of Baltimore who was taken too soon.