Friday Frontline: Mindy Kaling Teams Up With PanCAN To Raise Pancreatic Cancer Awareness, Al Roker Announces Successful Prostate Cancer Surgery And More

November 20, 2020
Conor Killmurray

From actress Mindy Kaling announcing a partnership with PanCaN to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer after losing her mother to the disease, to Al Roker sharing successful prostate cancer surgery news, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

Actress Mindy Kaling is teaming up with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) to help raise awareness around pancreatic cancer after losing her mother to the disease eight years ago.

“When I was growing up my mom was always there for me,” Kaling says in a video from PanCAN. “We shared everything together. So, when I found out she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was one of the toughest moments of my life. We did everything we could for her, but we just hadn’t caught it in time.”

Kaling is advocating for awareness and screening, because early detection can lead to better patient outcomes. As an ambassador with PanCAN, she will partner with the advocacy group to highlight their events and resources.

Ben Watkins, 14, “MasterChef Junior” favorite and culinary star, has passed away from a rare pediatric cancer.

Two years ago, doctors had thought a tumor in Ben’s neck was malformed lymph nodes, but the tumor continued to be a problem after treatment. In July, he began chemotherapy treatment for tumors in his lung, spine and shoulder.

Ben, then 11 years old, became a fan favorite during the 2018 season of the Gordon Ramsey hosted “MasterChef Junior” after capturing the final white apron on the show’s premiere episode and placing in the top 18 at the end of the season. Ben was also loved by his local Chicago community where he worked in his father’s restaurant and often made his own baked goods, a skill he attributed to his mother.

“Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth, but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many,” Donna Edwards and Anthony Edwards, Ben’s maternal grandmother and uncle, said in a statement on Monday.

The World Health Organization’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer launched this week; the effort looks to reduce over 40% of new cases of cervical cancer around the world.

“Eliminating any cancer would have once seemed an impossible dream, but we now have the cost-effective, evidence-based tools to make that dream a reality,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press release. The WHO has set out three targets for all countries to reach by 2030: fully vaccinate 90% of girls with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age, screen 70% of women with a high-performance test by age 35 and again by 45 and identify 90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment.

The WHO stresses that this is important to take action now, as new cases of cervical cancer are expected to increase from 570,000 to 700,000 between 2018 and 2030, while the annual number of deaths is projected to rise from 311,000 to 400,000, also doubling in low-to-middle income countries across the world.

With critical developments in the HPV vaccine and screening, officials now believe they can reverse this trend drastically and eliminate the disease altogether. Events sponsored by the WHO are taking place all around the world to launch the initiative and raise awareness for women to get vaccinated and screened.

One week after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer, Today Show anchor Al Roker announced that doctors have found no evidence of cancer.

"It was a great relief," Roker said. "Look, we're not out of the woods ... but for a first start, this is terrific news. I'm going to be up for, as a lot of people who live with cancer (are), lifelong testing to make sure this doesn't come back,” Roker said in an interview with Today. Roker completed his surgery last Thursday and just received the news that doctors will continue to monitor him but no further treatment is required.

Last week, Roker announced his September diagnosis on the Today Show in a candid interview before taking some time away from the show. Now, he says he feels better after the surgery but does feel a little bit like the “Michelin Man”, in his words: "I didn't feel like I had major surgery, but I have this swelling around my stomach, so clothes don't fit quite right right now, and I'm very vain.”

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