Pancreatic cancer: Tough adversary

Published: Mar. 7, 2019 at 6:04 PM PST
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“Now, normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging. But I'm going to fight this. And I'm going to keep working," said Alex Trebek


The consummate professional, "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek had nothing but positive thoughts for his fans to grasp on to as he announced he's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

A less common cancer, it only makes up a little more than three percent of all cancers diagnosed each year. But it is the third most deadly form of cancer. That's because it's an aggressive cancer, and by the time symptoms appear, it's progressed.

“Primarily the fact that it's an aggressive cancer and that it has often metastasized,” says Dr. Kelsey West, a family practice physician with UNR School of Med Family Practice Facility.

The pancreas helps us digest food and releases hormones which regulate blood sugar in our bodies. Because of its location, deep in our abdomen, tumors are not felt easily.

There is no screening for this kind of cancer, and if caught in earlier stages, surgery is done and can be followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

This cancer can be hereditary and there are tests to see if the gene is present. But most people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have no family history.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, jaundice, back pain, vomiting, a loss of appetite and urine discoloration. The median age of diagnosis is 70 and it affects men and women equally.

About 8.5% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are alive after five years.

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