As the world says good-bye to Apple CEO and visionary, Steve Jobs, the news of his death at the early age of 56 could be a wake-up call to us. Jobs had pancreatic cancer–a silent and often deadly disease that he had battled since 2004. And even with its high mortality rate, little is known about this type of cancer and how to catch it or prevent it.
Let’s start with the facts: Pancreatic cancer is one of the fastest spreading and deadliest cancers, and often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late. Only about 4% of patients survive five years after their diagnosis, and those with an advanced stage usually die within three to six months. In addition, roughly 44,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and 37,000 people die of the disease, including the late Patrick Swayze who only lived for 20 months after his diagnosis.
All of this can be scary, especially considering the fact that there are often no warning signs until it’s too late and no screening diagnosis test available yet. But according to Dr. Oz, there are a few symptoms to be aware of, including:
1. Upper abdominal pain. If there is an unusual pain in your core, especially if it radiates to the back, that should be a red flag to see your physician.
2. Jaundice. This can be a sign that your liver is failing because the cancer has spread to other organs.
3. Pale Stools. If there is no bile in your stools, they will be a pale beige color, which is another sign that your organs are under attack.
4. Dark Urine. When your urine turns a tea color and progresses to a cola color, this means the bile couldn’t come out through your stool so it comes out through your kidneys, the browner it gets the more blocked off you are.
According to Time magazine, Jobs’ cancer was extremely aggressive, and his liver transplant was only making things more difficult. “He not only had cancer, he was battling the immune suppression after the liver transplant,” Dr. Timothy Donahue of the UCLA Center for Pancreatic Disease in Los Angeles, who had not treated Jobs, told MSNBC.com. He also said that most patients who receive liver transplants survive just two years afterward.
While Jobs was fairly private and secretive about his disease and treatment, he reportedly did not undergo chemo, but was said to have tried certain alternative therapies including dietary changes and a radiation-based hormone treatment.
Until more is known about pancreatic cancer, it’s best, as always, to be aware of your body and get routine check-ups.