WASHINGTON (WJLA) — Alex Trebek, longtime Jeopardy! host, has announced that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Trebek is 78 years old.
His full statement reads as follows:
"Hi everyone, I have some news to share with all of you and it’s in keeping with my longtime policy of being open and transparent with our Jeopardy! fan base. I also wanted to prevent you from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding my health. So therefore, I wanted to be the one to pass along this information.
Now, just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Now normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to! Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you."
While cancer is never an easy thing to confront, doctors say pancreatic cancer comes with a special set of difficulties.
“It’s not the most common cancer, but it is a fairly lethal cancer,” said Dr. Keeran Sampat of Virginia Cancer Specialists at Virginia Hospital Center. “It’s an organ that’s deep. You don’t necessarily feel symptoms of this until it has gotten to its later stages.”
Sampat says jaundice, abdominal pain, and weight loss are some of the symptoms that often don’t occur until those later stages.
He says there is no widespread screening for pancreatic cancer, but those with a family history should potentially be screened.
“Screening the whole population won’t necessarily be the most effective way of helping people with this disease,” he said. “But screening the patients who are the highest risk, or the families that are at the highest risk, might make a bigger dent in detecting it earlier and also lead to better outcomes.”
Sampat adds that stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients are generally not candidates to undergo an operation to remove the cancer.
Although some patients beat the odds, he says the prognosis at that stage is often not good.
“It’s a very, very small group of patients who might live several years with metastatic, or stage 4 diseases, which is what we’re talking about,” Sampat said.