Alex Trebek announced this week that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and medical experts say that the prognosis for that advanced form of cancer paints a bleak picture for the Jeopardy! host.
The 78-year-old, who has hosted the quiz show for the past 35 years, said in a video message to fans that he was diagnosed this week and said that the “survival rate statistics” for the disease are very low. Dr. Mallika Marshall told CBS Boston this week that Trebek’s characterization is no understatement.
“It’s generally not good,” Marshall said of his prognosis. “And he mentioned stage 4, which means it’s pretty advanced, so the prognosis is not good. The last numbers I saw, about 20 percent of people survived one year after diagnosis, only about 7 percent of people are still alive after five years.”
Daniel M. Labow, chief of the surgical oncology division at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the New York Post that Alex Trebek faces long odds in his battle against pancreatic cancer, giving an even lower range than Marshall.
“In general, five-year survival rates are between 5 and 10 percent,” he said.
Marshall also shared some insight on pancreatic cancer, noting that the pancreas’ position behind the stomach can sometimes mask symptoms for a long time as tumors grow quite large. This means that pancreatic cancer is often not caught until it is at an advanced stage. People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are normally put through a treatment regimen that includes chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy as well as newer immune therapies, Marshall said.
Labow also noted that there is technically no cure for stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which is the most serious form of cancer and means that it has already advanced to other parts of the body. He told the New York Post that patients diagnosed in the earlier stages can be cured and tend to live longer.
But Marshall also pointed out that Alex Trebek has vowed to fight the disease, noting that people have beaten pancreatic cancer while facing even longer odds that what Trebek’s doctors may have told him.
“And you do hear some rare cases of people who lived years with it. So let’s give him a chance,” she said.
"Normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging," Alex Trebek says after announcing he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer.— ABC News (@ABC) March 7, 2019
"But I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working.” https://t.co/vBFzwJmlWC pic.twitter.com/6Oopqprc5h
Alex Trebek also saw an outpouring of support from fans after announcing his diagnosis, with many rooting the Jeopardy! host on and others sharing stories of their own battles against advanced forms of cancer.