Steve Jobs and Pancreatic Cancer

Last updated date: 13-Dec-2021

CancerCloudHospitalGeneral HealthPancreatic Cancer

3 mins read

Pancreatic Cancer

For many who are fans of Steve Jobs were in awe when he died at a relatively young age of 56 back in 2011. He was an icon of the technology industry who has revolutionized the way we communicate and enjoy life. His devices were iconic and clearly set apart from the rest both in terms of design and function – they were simple, elegant, and powerful.

Many were astounded how someone of his level of accomplishment with seemingly endless resources was not able to overcome his battle with cancer. After all, many these days seem to do well in battling the disease, even those with average resources. However, his cancer was of the pancreas, which is very hard to detect in early stages and survival rates are quite low.

What is the role of the pancreas in the body? The pancreas creates enzymes that aid to break down and digest foods and hormones that help to regulate the processing of glucose (sugar). These liquids travel through your pancreas via ducts and empty into the upper part of your small intestine (duodenum). An average person’s pancreas produces about eight ounces of these digestive enzymatic juices per day. It is essential in a well-functioning digestive system.

Pancreatic cancer begins growth in the tissues of your pancreas. Several types of growths can occur in the pancreas, including cancerous and noncancerous tumors. The most common type of cancer that forms in the pancreas is called pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (or simply adenocarcinoma), which begins in the cells that line the ducts that carry digestive enzymes out of the pancreas into the duodenum. Pancreatic cancer is rarely detected during its early stages as it often does not cause symptoms until after it has spread to other organs. This fact makes it especially difficult to treat, as once detected, it is often in late stages.

However, Steve Jobs did not have adenocarcinoma, which typically after diagnosis, only 24% of people survive 1 year, and only 9% live for 5 years (all stages combined). Steve had the rare form of pancreatic cancer called neuroendocrine tumor/islet cell carcinoma. If he had the more common form of pancreatic cancer, he probably would not have survived for many years following his 2003 diagnosis of tumors being present. The pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors form in hormone-making cells (islet cells) of the pancreas and survival rates are significantly higher if proper treatment is administered early on upon detection, usually through surgery. However, Steve Jobs supposedly has tried a number of alternative treatment efforts, including non-traditional alternative medicine, which some believe may have hastened his demise in 2011. 

Neuroendocrine tumor is considered less lethal than the most common form of pancreatic cancer, as the tumors grow more slowly than adenocarcinomas. That means patients diagnosed with this rarer form of pancreatic cancer has more time to consider treatments than when diagnosed with the more common adenocarcinoma. While there is no consensus among medical experts as to how probably Steve Jobs would have survived his cancer, it is worth knowing that with the particular form of pancreatic cancer he had, the possibility of survival is higher when treated promptly than the more common one.

Overall, pancreatic cancer treatment options are chosen based on the extent of the cancer development and stage. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these.

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