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“Pancreatic Cancer Update”

Jeopardy host, Alex Trebek, announced his grim news saying, “Just like 50,000 other people in the US each year, I was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Normally the prognosis is not very encouraging,” he continued, “But I am going to fight this. I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.” The cancer almost always strikes after age 45, with 71 the average age at diagnosis. Trebek is 78. Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other organs, and surgery is almost always not possible. Pancreatic cancer often spreads to the liver. While pancreatic cancer survival rates have been improving from decade to decade, the disease is still basically incurable. According to the American Cancer Society, for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative survival rate is 20%, and the five-year rate is 7%. These low survival rates are attributable to the fact that fewer than 20% of patients’ tumors are confined to the pancreas at the time of diagnosis; in most cases, the malignancy has already progressed to the point where surgical removal is impossible. The overall five-year survival rate is about 10%, although this can rise as high as 20% to 35% if the tumor is removed completely and when cancer has not spread to lymph nodes. The median survival rate of people with stage IV pancreatic cancer is about 18 months, with half surviving longer and half dying sooner.

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