Watch: Alex Trebek releases his latest pancreatic cancer video
Beloved “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek has a message he wants everyone to hear loud and clear: We need more awareness and education on pancreatic cancer and its signs and symptoms.
“I wish I had known sooner that the persistent stomach pain I experienced before my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer,” he says in a recent PSA.
Earlier this year, Trebek announced he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, and he’s currently receiving chemotherapy treatment. Key signs to look for include back or stomach pain, unexpected weight loss, yellowing of the skin or eyes, vomiting or sudden onset diabetes. Because these signs and symptoms are easy to overlook, this deadly disease is often caught after it has advanced for some time, making it much harder to treat. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for all stages of pancreatic cancer is just 7%.
“While we should certainly keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms, genetics also play a very important role, and in at-risk individuals, can even help detect pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages when it’s easiest to treat,” says Dr. Ajay Maker, Director of Surgical Oncology at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
Certain genetic mutations and genetic syndromes can signal a higher risk of certain types of cancer. For instance, Lynch syndrome, Peutz Jeghers syndrome and hereditary pancreatitis are genetic syndromes that can put one at higher risk of pancreatic cancer.
“It’s estimated roughly 20 percent of pancreas cancer cases are due to an inherited risk for developing the cancer, and national guidelines recommend genetic testing for individuals with pancreatic cancer or a family history of pancreatic cancer,” says Rikki Gaber Caffrey, certified genetic counselor at Advocate Illinois Masonic. “Speaking with a genetic counselor can help someone understand if they could benefit from genetic testing, so I strongly encourage people to seek out a genetic counselor for their expertise.”
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is regional manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Health Care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.