Printer Friendly

A sad farewell to little Joe.

Only in April of this year did the popular television star Michael Landon learn that he had cancer of the pancreas. There had been little, if any, warning of the presence of the disease; yet, within three months, he was dead.

Regrettably, his story is not unusual. Pancreatic cancer is frighteningly silent in its onset and rapid in its progression. Its usual site is the head of the pancreas, which lies against the liver and the bile duct, both of which are quickly invaded by the malignant tumor. Blockage of the bile duct, producing jaundice, may be the first clue to its presence. By the time this occurs, the only possibility for cure (surgery) is usually too late. Even when surgery is performed at an earlier stage, the death rate from the surgery itself is formidable-as high as 50 percent.

The good news is that a Polish researcher, Dr. Witold Zatonski, has studied the possible links between caffeine and the tannin substance in tea to the prevention of pancreatic cancer. Tea drinkers have been found to have slightly lower rates of several kinds of cancer including those of the pancreas, prostate, and liver) than those who do not drink tea.

The bad news is that even if the patient survives pancreatic surgery, the average survival time following surgery, with subsequent radiation and chemotherapy, is only 15 months. Of 40 patients thus treated in one study, only two survived five years, with one still alive after nine years.

Pancreatic cancer comprises 3 percent of all cancers and about 5 percent of all cancer deaths, with about 27,000 new cases occurring each year. Early symptoms tend to be vague and non-specific, and there is no single good diagnostic test, thus hampering early diagnosis. The best tests are ultrasound, computer tomography (CT, or "cat scan"), and ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography-if you can handle that one!).

Because of their limitations, however, it often takes several different tests to distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. The majority of patients with the disease are not candidates for curative surgery, and these tests help to avoid unnecessary exploratory surgery.

Smoking is an important factor that has been associated with pancreatic cancer, and it appears that the heavier the smoker, the higher the risk of acquiring the disease. Michael Landon was a heavy smoker-to quote a friend, "We used to say we bet his socks smelled smoky, because he inhaled so deeply."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Michael Landon dies of pancreatic cancer
Publication:Medical Update
Article Type:Biography
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Words:405
Previous Article:Duel in the sun.
Next Article:Raw eggs are no yolk.
Topics:


Related Articles
It's the 'Fast Track' for a new cancer drug.
New treatments hold hope for pancreatic cancer patients.
Cell mixture attacks pancreas tumors.
THE POST INVESTIGATES THE PANCREAS.
Post honored for pancreatic research.
CT scans for pancreatic cancer.
Processed meat and red meat increase risk of pancreatic cancer.
Abigail Elizabeth (Williams) Hill, 52.
Pancreatic cancer linked to high sugar intake.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters