Doctor discusses stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis with patient

Editor’s note: Alex Trebek announced on March 6 that he has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. We wanted to share more about this stage of the disease that Trebek and thousands of others face.

Most people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed at stage IV. Patients diagnosed at an earlier stage can also develop stage IV cancer if it spreads.

Here are five important facts to know about stage IV pancreatic cancer:

1) Stage IV means the cancer metastasized, or spread, to another part of the body. It often spreads to the liver, abdominal wall, lungs, bones, faraway lymph nodes or a combination of these. Cancer at this stage may also be called metastatic or advanced cancer.

2) Stage IV treatment is usually chemotherapy. The cancer cannot be removed by surgery at this stage. Clinical trials may also give you more choices.

3) Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague, unexplained symptoms. These include back or abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, change in stool, pancreatitis and recent-onset diabetes in people over age 50. Advanced pancreatic cancer may also cause ascites (fluid in the abdomen), fatigue and blood clots.

4) Every pancreatic cancer patient’s case is unique, and there is hope. Pancreatic cancer patients who participate in clinical research have better outcomes. Seeing pancreatic cancer specialists, including healthcare professionals who focus on symptom management and supportive (palliative) care, also improves outcomes. And, studies show that treatments based on your tumor’s biology can increase their success.

5) There are stage IV survivors. Read their stories, or connect with others who have been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and can offer support and hope through the Survivor & Caregiver Network.

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