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Trebek Diagnosis Brings Attention To Pancreatic Cancer

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - With news that Alex Trebek has stage four pancreatic cancer, many are left wondering how the longtime “Jeopardy!” host will be treated. Dr. Richard Dunne researches and treats cancer at Wilmot Cancer Institute, which is a part of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Dunne says that when the disease is caught early, it’s often treated through surgery and chemotherapy, and patients rebound. But Trebek and the majority of people with pancreatic cancer do not know they have it until their options are limited, he said. According to the American Cancer Society, “early pancreatic cancers often do not cause any signs or symptoms. By the time they do cause symptoms, they have often grown very large or already spread outside the pancreas.” “Unfortunately this is a very common way for patients with pancreatic cancer to present,” Dunne said. “We find that in anywhere from 75 to 80 percent that either their cancer will be inoperable or that they will be stage 4.” In cases of stage 4 cancer, Dunne says chemotherapy is the likely treatment, and the five-year survival rate is about 3 percent. “If someone is diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, unfortunately most patients will die of that disease,” said Dunne. He said the disease is on the rise in America. Dunne said increased obesity, inactivity and type-2 diabetes are some of the risk factors. Smoking, alcohol use, and a family history can also contribute. Dunne said there is room for hope, even for those in stage four. Survival rates are slowly on the rise because of new treatments. “We’re hoping that with some of the newer treatments that are being trialed right now that we will have new things available for patients,” Dunne said. “And I think we will see that translate into improved outcomes with stage four pancreatic cancer.”