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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It is a disease known for its grim outlook, but long-time “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek says he is determined to beat pancreatic cancer.
This is the news Trebek delivered to the nation late Wednesday: “This week, I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. I’m going to keep working, and with the love and support of family and friends, and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rates for this disease.”
“I think the mentality is really important,” said Dr. Nathan Bahary.
Dr. Bahary is the medical director of the Pancreatic Cancer Program at UPMC. While he’s hopeful Trebek can beat the disease, statistics show that can be a challenge.
“About 50 to 70 percent of people are found at a much more advanced stage that they will never have a surgery option, and unfortunately for them, at least where it stands today, it’s incurable in most cases,” said Dr. Bahary.
However, if you’re one of the 15 percent of patients that catch pancreatic cancer in its early stages, Dr. Bahary said the cancer can be removed surgically and patients have a chance to be cured. Continued research is helping doctors find ways to treat the disease.
“There’s something in the DNA. Something in that basic building blocks directing growth and to stop growth,” said Dr. Bahary.
The pancreas sits in the back of the body, which makes it harder to detect cancer. When you start noticing symptoms, the cancer is usually further along.
Some of the symptoms are unintentional weight loss, jaundice and sudden diabetes.
If you’re diagnosed at stage four like Trebek, Dr. Bahary said the average survival rate is 12 to 18 months.
“We know chemo can prolong survival. It can improve your quality of life, and also new avenues of research occurring here and elsewhere,” said Dr. Bahary.
Trebek plans on being around for a while for one specific reason.
“Truth told, I have to because under the terms of my contract. I have to host ‘Jeopardy!’ for three more years,” said Trebek.