Local Doctor Talks About Alex Trebek's Cancer

Local Doctor Talks About Alex Trebek's Cancer

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For more than 30 years, Alex Trebek has been the face of Jeopardy!

On Wednesday, the game show host announced he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“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 with this disease,” he said.

But just how low are the survival rates?

"Very low, it's very low," said Dr. Daniel DeBlasio, the director of radiation oncology at the Walker Center for Cancer Care in Watertown. 

He says for most patients, like Trebek, the cancer isn't caught until a later stage. He says signs like abdominal pain and jaundice usually don't show up right away.

"The problem is it's in the abdomen and so by the time you get symptoms, the first symptom is usually pain, the tumor is usually quite advanced and it's spread and it's causing problems," said Dr. DeBlasio.

He says once it has spread it's almost impossible to beat. The American Cancer Society says the 5-year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is 3 percent.

Dr. DeBlasio says at that stage, the only real option for treatment is chemotherapy to extend life.

He says treating the cancer with radiation can be difficult because the pancreas is surrounded by critical organs that can be damaged by radiation.

But he says there's hope that one day the disease won't be so deadly.

"There's a lot of work being done to see if we can have detection programs to get to this earlier, because if it was caught earlier, it would be a curable disease," he said.

Although the statistics aren't in his favor, Trebek is remaining optimistic, joking he has to beat it because his contract says he has to host Jeopardy! for 3 more years.

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