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Pancreatic cancer: What is the illness Jeopardy's Alex Trebek suffers from and what are the symptoms

Alex Trebek has hosted Jeopardy since 1984

Chelsea Ritschel,Katie O'Malley
Thursday 07 March 2019 16:13 GMT
Alex Trebek announces he has stage four pancreatic cancer

Alex Trebek, the host of American television quiz show Jeopardy, has announced he has cancer.

On Wednesday, the show's Twitter account posted a video of the 78-year-old television personality in which he revealed he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

In the clip, Trebek said he was going to fight the disease and continue working. He also noted that 50,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the US each year.

The news comes months after singer Aretha Franklin died from the same illness at the age of 76, after it was reported she was “gravely ill.”

Following Franklin's death, her publicist Gwendolyn Quinn said in a statement: “Franklin's official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin's oncologist, Dr Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, MI.”

Quinn also shared a statement from the family, which read: “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”

What is pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow and divide to form a tumour in the pancreas, a large gland located in the abdomen that aids in digestion, according to the NHS.

The most common type of pancreatic cancer is pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and it usually extremely difficult to detect, leading it to be known as the silent killer.

Causes of pancreatic cancer are not fully understand, however, there are certain known factors that increase the risk of developing the disease.

Age is the largest factor, as pancreatic cancer mainly affects people aged 50 to 80 and around half of all new cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 or over.

Weight is also linked to pancreatic cancer, as is smoking and a history of health conditions such as diabetes, or chronic pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas).

In Europe, pancreatic cancer is the fourth-deadliest cancer and patients affected with pancreatic cancer lose 98 per cent of their healthy life expectancy at the point of diagnosis, according to Pancreatic Cancer Europe.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat because a tumour in the pancreas often does not result in symptoms - meaning it is often not diagnosed until it is too late.

According to the NHS and, the first symptom of pancreatic cancer is typically pain in the back or stomach, which can be worse when eating.

Weight loss and loss of appetite are also symptoms of the disease, as well as changes in stool, pancreatitis, and nausea.

Another possible symptom of pancreatic cancer is jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes.

What is the treatment of pancreatic cancer?

Because it is uncommon to detect the early stages of pancreatic cancer, it can be difficult to treat as it is typically only caught after it has become fairly advanced or spread to other areas of the body.

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Standard treatments of pancreatic cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Surgery offers the best chance of treating the cancer, however, people with advanced stages are not eligible.

In the US, more than 55,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018 - more than 150 every day.

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