What you should know about the disease
Jerry Springer, best known as the host of his controversial talk show of the same name, died Thursday at the age of 79 from pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers.
“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the core of his success in whatever he tried,” said Jene Galvin, a lifelong friend and family spokesperson. “He is irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but the memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”
According to the American Society of Cancer, approximately 50,550 people will die this year from the disease, which has also claimed the lives of Alex Trebek, Aretha Franklin, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other public figures.
Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the United States and about 7% of all cancer deaths, reports the American Society of Cancer. Here’s what you should know about the disease.
Why are pancreatic cancer survival rates so low?
A lack of inexpensive screenings that can reliably detect cancer in people without significant symptoms makes diagnosis difficult.
As a result, most cases are diagnosed at advanced stages — often at stage 4, when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
For example, Ginsburg’s cancer was discovered during a regular checkup and after undergoing surgery to treat it, she lived for more than a decade, a rarity among those who have pancreatic cancer.
Most people diagnosed with cancer are not candidates for surgery because the cancer has metastasized — spread outside the pancreas to other parts of the body. And while treatment is available, pancreatic cancer is considered largely incurable.
Jerry Springer, controversial daytime talk show host, dies of pancreatic cancer at 79
Who Else Died From Pancreatic Cancer?
Trebek died in November 2020 at the age of 80, about 20 months after announcing he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer – more than twice as long as the average patient survives after diagnosis, according to the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research .
That same year, civil rights icon John Lewis and US Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg also died of pancreatic cancer, aged 80 and 87, respectively.
Franklin died of the disease in 2018 at the age of 76, Steve Jobs died in 2011 at the age of 56, Patrick Swayze in 2009 at the age of 57 and Luciano Pavarotti in 2007 at the age of 71.
Alex Trebek dead at 80: Why pancreatic cancer is so deadly
What are risk factors for pancreatic cancer?
The American Cancer Society reports that the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer is influenced by specific risk factors that can be controlled:
- People who smoke are about twice as likely to get it.
- People who are “very overweight” have a 20% higher chance of getting it.
- Diabetes, particularly type 2, puts people at increased risk.
- Chronic inflammation of the pancreas, commonly associated with smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, increases the chances.
Other factors include age (at least two-thirds of patients are 65 or older), sex (males get it slightly more often), race (blacks get it slightly more often than whites), and inherited gene mutations (found in 10% of cases).
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What Are the Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer?
Prior to the diagnosis, Trebek said he had persistent abdominal pain, and Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that dull pains in the upper abdomen or upper back are common.
“This is likely caused by a tumor that has formed in the body or tail of the pancreas because it can press on the spine,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Some patients describe pain that begins in the middle of the abdomen and radiates to the back. The pain can be worse when lying down and can often be relieved by bending forward. Pancreatic cancer pain can vary from person to person.”
Symptoms can include jaundice, pain, and weight loss.
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Contributor: Josh Peter