Pancreatic cancer has been prominent in the news cycle since the recent passing of longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, and one doctor tells why the disease is so deadly.
Donald K. Wood, MD, fellow at American College of Surgeons (FACS), tells OneNewsNow, "The prevalence here in the U.S. is 57,000-plus cases a year, with men having pancreatic cancer more than women."
While the pancreas envelopes all the crossroads between the heart, the intestinal tracts, and the like, Dr. Wood explains the organ is in the back of everything.
"So, it's kind of hidden, and … cancer is hidden," he continues. "Unfortunately, both from the way of the patient as well as physicians not picking up on some of the symptomatology, because it's so vague, they are usually diagnosed lately, and that's what makes it so deadly."
In Trebek’s case, he was 78 years old when he was diagnosed in March of 2019. His cancer was already at stage four.
As uncomfortable as it may be, Dr. Wood urges people to talk about things with their physician.
"The symptoms that take these patients to the doctor [are] usually weight loss; sometimes they have developing jaundice," says Dr. Wood. "Sometimes they have weakness and nausea, and it fits all kinds of other diagnoses -- pancreatitis, or something like that -- and usually the physician then can pick up if that is one of the symptoms that comes around, and they have to think of pancreatic cancer."
That, he says, is because this is one of the rarer cancers.
"If somebody is having symptoms, and the doctor has gone over things and hasn't found anything, it's something they should report back to the doctor, and perhaps the doctor can refer them to somebody else for a workup," suggests Dr. Wood.
And though the Internet can be one of the worst places to consult for medical advice, the one website the FACS fellow would recommend is the website for the American Cancer Society.