Patrick Swayze and the epidemic of pancreatic cancer among public figures

Patrick Swayze, loved for his roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, today lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 57. “Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” said a statement released Monday evening by his publicist, Annett Wolf. Diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March 2008, Swayze continued to work despite his diagnosis, performing in the A&E drama, The Beast, this past year.
>Since we began blogging on the medical facts behind the headlines of celebrity health conditions, cancer of the pancreas has come up numerous times. Previous stories include:

Some statistics about pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2009:

  • New cases: 42,470
  • Deaths: 35,240

What you need to know about Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.

  • Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly of all types of cancer.
  • This year 32,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and about 32,000 will die from it.
  • Despite the high mortality rate, the federal government spends woefully little money on pancreatic cancer research.

Pancreatic cancer is treatable when caught early; the vast majority of cases are not diagnosed until too late.

  • Five-year survival rates approach 40% if the cancers are surgically removed while they are still small and have not spread to the lymph nodes.

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose

  • There is no reliable screening test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.
  • Symptoms are often vague and easily confused with other diseases.
  • We need to invest in the development of an effective screening test.

Who Has the Greatest Risk?

Inherited genetic disorders cause 5-10% of cases of pancreatic cancer and certain genes can inrease the lifetime risk up 80%.

  • People with two or more relatives who have had pancreatic cancer
  • Cigarette Smokers
  • People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent
  • Have the BRCA2, p16, STK11 gene mutation or chronic pancreatitis
  • Are over the age of 50
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Raise the Awareness of Everyone You Know

  • Send the link to this page to everyone you know. By raising awareness, you are helping to save lives.
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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

1 Comment

  1. Cheryl

    October 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Any comments on the controversy over pancreatic cancer associated with statins since the drugs can induce pancreatitis?

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