Dr. Kenneth Chang discusses Alex Trebek's pancreatic cancer diagnosis

March 07, 2019

IN THE NEWS: CBS2 News interviewed Dr. Kenneth Chang, executive director of the H. H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center, about the stage 4 pancreas cancer diagnosis Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek announced this week. 

Chang said the survival rate for the disease is very low, and it’s very difficult to diagnose because there are no symptoms in the early stages. 

“Patients generally have a 20 percent survival for one year, and 7 percent survival for 5 years,” said Chang, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at UCI School of Medicine. “It’s very sporadic, and we are unsure why or how people get it. “

“Usually incidences of pancreatic cancer start in the fifth decade of life, and continue to rise in the sixth and seventh decade,” said Chang. “Unfortunately, we now have patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s who may be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.” 

The American Cancer Society says approximately 57, 000 people will be diagnosed annually with pancreatic cancer. The disease accounts for 3 percent of all cancers in the United States. 

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer are:

  • Chronic pancreatitis, often associated with alcohol use
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Certain genetic syndromes

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