The title says it all ........
Talk show host Jerry Springer has died at age 79 of pancreatic cancer, his family spokesperson confirmed to NBC News.
The 10-time Emmy winner died peacefully at his home in Chicago surrounded by family, the statement from his longtime friend Jean Galvin read. Springer went to law school, served in the U.S. Army Reserves and worked in politics and journalism, but he was most famous for his broadcasting career, which included programs such as "Jerry Springer," "Judge Jerry," "Springer on the Radio," the game show "Baggage" and the "Jerry Springer Podcast."
It's not clear exactly when Springer was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but the statement explained that Springer suffered a "brief illness." It's "more common" for people with pancreatic cancer versus other types of cancers to pass relatively quickly, Dr. Suneel Kamath, pancreatic oncologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells TODAY.com.
"Dirty Dancing" star Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, 22 months after he was diagnosed. "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2019 and died in November 2020. "Harry Potter" actor Alan Rickman died of pancreatic cancer in 2016, just a few months after his diagnosis.
Swayze's widow, Lisa Niemi Swayze, offered condolences to Springer's family on the TODAY show on April 28. "It's just a dreadful disease to have to lose a loved one to," she said.
Each year, more than 50,000 people in the U.S. die from pancreatic cancer, making it the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., per the National Cancer Institute. Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest five-year survival rates of cancers in the U.S. at just 5% to 10%, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Here's what to know about pancreatic cancer.
Signs of pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is a tumor that forms in the cells of the pancreas, an organ that aids in digestion and sits behind the lower part of the stomach. In its early stages, pancreatic cancer usually does not cause symptoms, so it often goes undetected until later stages, when it starts to impact other digestive organs.
It can also be difficult to feel the tumor — like how one might feel a cancerous breast lump, for example — because the pancreas is so deep in the abdomen; what's more, pancreatic tumors don't usually show up on imaging tests, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Signs pancreatic cancer has spread
When symptoms do occur, it's usually a sign the cancer has spread, according to the American Cancer Society. Pancreatic cancer symptoms can be difficult to diagnose because they can be ignored or misattributed to other causes. About 80% of people don't know the signs of pancreatic cancer, TODAY.com previously reported.
According to Cleveland, common pancreatic cancer symptoms include:
Jaundice or a yellowing of the skin
Pain in the middle of the back
Nausea and vomiting
Gas or bloating
Lack of appetite
First symptoms of pancreatic cancer
The above symptoms tend to occur in later stages of the disease, and there are "no tell-tale signs" of early pancreatic cancer, but some patients will develop "vague" symptoms up to a year before they get diagnosed, per Cleveland Clinic. For example, many patients have back or stomach pain leading up to their diagnosis. Early symptoms may come and go or get worse after meals or when lying down.
Kamath says he's also seen fatigue; sudden, rapid weight loss; and pain in the middle of the stomach under the breast bone in some patients with early pancreatic cancer, but not everyone gets these. If you notice any of these symptoms for four weeks or more, "it's probably not normal and should get checked out," he says.
"What happens a lot of times is people either think it's just acid reflux, that they ate something funny or they ascribe it to some other thing for a while," he adds. "They'll see their doctors and many of them will be started on acid reflux medicines or other things targeting general stomach issues. That's why I emphasize anything that goes on for ... five, six weeks at a time isn't going to be your garden variety reflux, indigestion, constipation-related stuff."
He also stressed the importance of advocating for yourself if you think something's wrong because most doctors won't automatically think pancreatic cancer since it's still a relatively rare disease.
Trebek shared in a 2019 PSA that he wished he'd know the warning signs of pancreatic cancer sooner. "I wish I had known earlier that the persistent stomach pain I experienced prior to my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer,” he said.
Niemi Swayze recently told TODAY.com that her husband's first symptom was jaundice, which the American Cancer Society says is common.
"He came to me and he said, 'Do my eyes look yellow?'" Niemi Swayze recalled. "He had some digestive problems — pain that wouldn’t go away. But it was mostly the yellow eyes that sent us to the doctor. He said, 'Oh, we’ll go in next week.' But I thought, 'Yellow eyes just doesn’t sound normal. We need to go tomorrow.'"
Another pancreatic cancer patient, Elizabeth O’Connor, told TODAY.com in 2021 that the first symptoms of pancreatic cancer that she felt were lack of appetite and unexplained weight loss. She later noticed her arm turning swollen and hot due to a blood clot. Doctors discovered the cyst on her ovary was pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer survival rate
Pancreatic cancer has one of the lower survival rates of cancers in the U.S., although it's improved over the years, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Once again, that's because the disease is most often diagnosed in later stages when it's already spread in the body.
About 80% of pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed after the disease has already spread, usually stage 4, TODAY.com previously reported. About 1% of patients diagnosed at stage 4 survive five or more years; on average, they live about one year, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
For patients diagnosed when the cancer hasn't spread outside the pancreas, the five-year survival rate is around 44%, according to the American Cancer Society. When it's spread to parts of the body near the pancreas by diagnosis, it's about 15%. When it's spread beyond that at diagnosis, for example to the lungs or liver, the survival rate of pancreatic cancer is 3%.
Kamath explains that "a number of factors" make it more deadly than other types of cancers. Some of the newer therapies being developed, such as immunotherapy, don't work as well on the tumors, and there's not as much funding to help researchers understand the underlying mechanisms of pancreatic cancer, he says. It's also a challenging cancer to remove surgically due to its location in the body and its ability to spread more easily than other cancer types.
Pancreatic cancer causes
According to Cleveland Clinic, it's not clear what causes pancreatic cancer, but there are some risk factors that researchers have been able to point to. However, there isn't an especially strong association between pancreatic cancer and any of these factors, Kamath says.
Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
Smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco use
Obesity and sedentary lifestyle
Diabetes, especially Type 2
Chronic pancreatitis, especially if it runs in your family
Can pancreatic cancer be cured?
While it is possible to cure pancreatic cancer, it's not common, Kamath says. Most of the cases of pancreatic cancer being cured are in the early stages, with about 56% of these people surviving beyond five years, according to the American Cancer Society.
Survival rates of pancreatic cancer have improved in recent years but the progress is slower than with other disease, Kamath adds.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com