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‘Jeopardy!’ Host Alex Trebek has Pancreatic Cancer

On March 6, TV game show host Alex Trebek shared that he has Stage IV pancreatic cancer. (The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach which secretes digestive enzymes.) According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall 5-year survival rate for this disease is 8.5%. (1)

Trebek, who is 78, has been the host of Jeopardy! since 1984. He was born in Canada and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998. He also hosted other game shows, including Double Dare, High Rollers, and To Tell the Truth.

On June 13, 2014, Guinness World Records presented Trebek with the world record for most episodes of a game show hosted, with 6,829 episodes at the time. (2) Trebek has now hosted more than 7,800 episodes of Jeopardy!

In a prepared video announcement of the cancer diagnosis, Trebek acknowledged that his prognosis was poor. Still, Trebek said he would aggressively fight the cancer in hopes of beating the odds and would continue hosting Jeopardy! for as long as he was able. In a lighthearted moment, Trebek noted: “Under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years!”

The pancreas is a long, flattened gland located deep in the abdomen. Since the pancreas isn’t seen or felt in our day to day lives, most people don’t know a lot about the pancreas. The pancreas is, however, a vital part of the digestive system and a critical controller of blood sugar levels.

Because of the deep location of the pancreas, tumors of the gland are rarely able to be felt by pressing on the abdomen. This is why most symptoms of pancreatic cancer do not appear until the tumor has grown large enough to interfere with the function of the pancreas or other nearby organs such as the stomach, duodenum, liver, or gallbladder. (3)

According to the NCI, approximately 1.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at some point during their lifetime, based on 2013-15 data. For 2011-15 cases and deaths, the number of new cases of pancreatic cancer was 12.6 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 10.9 per 100,000 men and women per year.

In 2018, there were an estimated 44,330 deaths from pancreatic cancer, which accounted for 7.3% of all cancer deaths. The 5-year survival rate for the various stage of pancreatic cancer range from 34.3% (Stage I) to 5.5% (Stage IV).

“I’m going to fight this, and I’m going to keep working,” Trebek said. “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.”

Citations

(1) Cancer Stat Facts: Pancreatic Cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html

(2) Anna Chan. ‘Jeopardy’s’ Alex Trebek sets Guinness World Record for hosting shows. https://www.today.com/popculture/jeopardys-alex-trebek-sets-guinness-world-record-hosting-shows-1D79804003

(3) Johns Hopkins Medicine. What is the pancreas? http://pathology.jhu.edu/pc/basicoverview1.php?area=ba