The star of Dirty Dancing and Ghost, Patrick Swayze, suffers from pancreatic cancer, reports said Wednesday. His doctors say that they look into the future with optimism in terms of the prognosis for struggling with the disease.
"Patrick has a very limited amount of disease and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far," Swayze's physician Dr. George Fisher said in a statement released by Wolf. "All of the reports stating the timeframe of his prognosis and his physical side effects are absolutely untrue. We are considerably more optimistic."
Many tabloids wrote that the actor would have only five weeks to live.
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor within the pancreatic gland. Each year about 33,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with this condition, and more than 60,000 in Europe. Depending on the extent of the tumor at the time of diagnosis, the prognosis is generally regarded as poor, with few victims still alive five years after diagnosis, and complete remission still extremely rare.
About 95 percent of pancreatic tumors are adenocarcinomas (M8140/3). The remaining 5 percent include other tumors of the exocrine pancreas (e.g., serous cystadenomas), acinar cell cancers, and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (such as insulinomas, M8150/1, M8150/3). These tumors have a completely different diagnostic and therapeutic profile, and generally a more favorable prognosis.
Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult because the symptoms are so non-specific and varied. Common symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen that typically radiates to the back and is relieved by leaning forward (seen in carcinoma of the body or tail of the pancreas), loss of appetite, significant weight loss and painless jaundice related to bile duct obstruction (carcinoma of the head of the pancreas). All of these symptoms can have multiple other causes. Therefore, pancreatic cancer is often not diagnosed until it is advanced.
Jaundice occurs when the tumor grows and obstructs the common bile duct, which runs partially through the head of the pancreas. Tumors of the head of the pancreas (approximately 60% of cases) are more likely to cause jaundice by this mechanism.
Trousseau sign, in which blood clots form spontaneously in the portal blood vessels, the deep veins of the extremities, or the superficial veins anywhere on the body, is sometimes associated with pancreatic cancer.
Clinical depression has been reported in association with pancreatic cancer, sometimes presenting before the cancer is diagnosed. However, the mechanism for this association is not known.
Pancreatic cancer occurs mostly with men. Risk factors of the disease include age, male gender, African ethnicity, smoking, red meat high diets, obesity, diabetes and chronic pancreatitis.