Pancreatic cancer has lowest survival rate, doctors say. Here’s what to know about the aggressive cancer.

(Richard Drew, 2010 AP)

The death of legendary talk show host and former Cincinnati, Ohio mayor, Jerry Springer was caused by a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

The news broke on Thursday about the “The Jerry Springer Show” host’s death at age 79.

That cancer is said to have the lowest survival rate of any type of cancer because it’s rarely detected during its most curable stages.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023 about 64,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and roughly 50,550 will die from it.

Alex Trebek, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Patrick Swayze, and Steve Jobs are all well-known names that have battled the aggressive cancer.

“Pancreatic cancer is very hard to diagnose because typically it grows and there are no symptoms associated with it. And so when one has symptoms, it’s usually in a more advanced stage and very hard to treat,” Dr. Scot Ackerman said with the Ackerman Cancer Center.

Ackerman explained that men have a slightly increased risk than women. African-Americans, people who are obese, people with type-2 diabetes and smokers are also considered high risk. Genetic factors can play a part as well.

As the tumor grows, patients will begin to see increased symptoms such as back pain, abdominal discomfort, unexpected changes in appetite and even jaundice.

“Yellow jaundice you hear about. So, jaundice is a sign of pancreatic cancer as it grows. With that, there can be some bowel changes. Your stool can become clay-colored. You can have mucus secretions in your stool. Those are sort of the symptoms that one gets,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said surgery is the gold standard and would involve removing the entire pancreas. He explained that chemotherapy and radiation can be options before or after surgery and in patients with inoperable tumors.

“And with radiation therapy, there are some really neat, new advances called proton radiation, proton therapy. It’s very precise. It allows us to treat pancreatic cancer with a high dose of radiation and avoid damage to other structures near the pancreas like the liver, or the stomach or the kidneys,” Ackerman said.

The BRCA gene associated with breast cancer is also associated with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, according to Ackerman.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.