Pancreatic cancer: What you should know about the disease that led to Jerry Springer's death

Jerry Springer, in a photo taken in 2019 . (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

The topic of pancreatic cancer has returned to the spotlight following the passing of talk show host Jerry Springer.

Springer died on April 27 at his home in Chicago. Initially, a family spokesperson said Springer passed away following ‘a brief illness,’ but on April 28, his representative confirmed that the longtime television host died of pancreatic cancer.

Here's what you should know about the disease.

What is pancreatic cancer?

According to the Mayo Clinic, pancreatic cancer grows in the tissues of a person's pancreas, an organ that is located behind the lower part of a person's stomach.

Cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic's website, occurs when cells within a person mutate and multiply out of control.

There are two types of pancreatic cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic, with exocrine tumors, or pancreatic cancer that begins in the cells that line the pancreas, making up 90% of all cases. Meanwhile, less than 10% of pancreatic tumors are neuroendocrine tumors, or tumors that originate from specialized cells that link up a person's hormone management system to the nervous system.

How common is pancreatic cancer?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, pancreatic Cancer is the 10th most common cancer in men and people assigned male at birth, and the 8th most common cancer in women and people assigned female at birth.

Cleveland Clinic officials say currently, pancreatic cancer it is responsible for 3% of all cancers in the United States, but cases are on the rise, and pancreatic cancer could be the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by the year 2030.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • Abdominal pain that radiates to a person's back
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Jaundice, or the yellowing of a person's skin, as well as the whites of their eyes
  • Stools that are light-colored
  • Urines that are dark in color
  • Itchy skin
  • A new diabetes diagnosis, or an existing case of diabetes that is becoming more difficult to control
  • Blood clots
  • Fatigue

What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, there are a number of risk factors for pancreatic cancer, some of which can be changed.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer that can be changed, according to the ACS, include:

  • Use of tobacco, with about 25% of pancreatic cancers are thought to be caused by smoking. Risks start to drop once a person stops smoking
  • Obesity, with people whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or more having 20% high risks in developing pancreatic cancer
  • Chronic pancreatitis, or long-term inflammation of the pancreas, which is often seen with heavy alcohol use and smoking
  • Exposure to certain chemicals used in dry cleaning and metal working industries

Risk factors that, according to the ACS, cannot be changed include:

  • Age, as almost all pancreatic cancer patients are older than 45, with an average age at the time of diagnosis being 70.
  • Gender, with men being slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than women
  • Race, with African-Americans being slightly more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than a white person
  • Family history, as the disease seemingly runs in some families. However, the ACS states that most people who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer do not have a family history of it
  • Inherited genetic syndromes, such as hereditary breast cancer, familial pancreatitis, and heriditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome

What is the survival rate for pancreatic cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer is 12% overall, based of people diagnosed with the disease from 2012 to 2018.

The ACS also noted that with localized cancers, or cancers with no sign of spreading outside of the pancreas, the five-year survival rate is 44%, and cancer that has spread to other, distant parts of the body, such as lungs, liver, or bones, having a five-year survival rate of 3%

Why is the survival rate so low?

According to the website of Florida-based Orlando Health, pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer because symptoms usually do not surface until the cancer is already in a late stage, which makes the cancer difficult to treat.

In addition, officials with Orlando Health say there is the cancer is deadlier because it can be tough to treat, as pancreatic cancer tumors do not respond as well to commonly used cancer therapies.

In addition, officials with University of Utah Health say pancreatic cancer surgeries are trickier because the organ is surrounded by several blood vessels, and the cancer is highly likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Besides Jerry Springer, are there other well-known people who have died from the disease?

Springer is one of a number of well-known people who died from the disease in recent years.

In 2020, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died from the disease. In that same year, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek also died from the disease. He was diagnosed in 2019.

Other well-known people who died from pancreatic cancer include British actor Alan Rickman, who was known for his role in the Harry Potter movie series, American actor Patrick Swayze, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

What can I do to reduce my risk of getting pancreatic cancer?

According to Mayo Clinic officials, people can reduce their risk of pancreatic cancer by quitting smoking, maintaining a health weight, and choosing a healthy diet.

This website does not provide medical advice. The information provided above are meant to be informative, and nothing on this site should be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your health, reach out to your primary care doctor or other health care providers.