News / USA

Jobs' Pancreatic Cancer Led to Other Health Issues

Disease is hard to treat because it is difficult to diagnose

In 2004, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced he had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer.
In 2004, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced he had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer.
Vidushi Sinha

When Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple last week, he said it was because he could no longer perform up to the demands of the position. Jobs is known to have been treated for pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Oncologists say pancreatic cancer is hard to treat because it is difficult  to diagnose. The organ is embedded deep in the abdomen, symptoms only become evident in a late stage of the disease.

In 2004, Jobs announced he had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer - a mild and rare form of the disease called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.

That form makes up about five percent of all of pancreatic cancers. It affects the cells that produce hormones to control blood sugar levels. The more deadly, and common, form appears in the exocrine cells of the pancreas that produce digestive enzymes.

The pancreas is a 15-centimeter-long gland tucked behind the stomach and below the liver. Pancreatic cancer can be hard to diagnose, since the early stages have no visible symptoms.

"There are no screening tests in a way mammograms are a good screening tool for breast cancer, or checking blood levels for prostate cancer," says Dr. Khaled el-Shami, a cancer specialist at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Five years after cancer surgery, Jobs got a liver transplant.

"About five months ago I had a liver transplant," Jobs said at the time. "So I now have the liver of a mid-20s person.”

El-Shami says that's not surprising, because cancer in the pancreas can spread. “Neuroendocrine tumors tend to spread from pancreas to the liver, and the liver being a vital organ, removing the cancer from the liver can result in improved survival. Liver transplant is a radical way of removing cancer in the liver.”

But el-Shami warns a transplant is not a guaranteed cure.

“It’s a balance between removing a big chunk of cancer in the liver and the risk of having a weakened immune system, which can encourage not only the original cancer to come back but also emergence of other cancers.”

Dr. Matthew Walsh is chairman of General Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

“It tends to be a disease that does come back, does spread, does take your strength away," he says, "sort of have all the cancer-associated symptoms and people still do die from this type of cancer.”

While he has never treated Jobs and does not know the details of his case, Walsh says Jobs' operation could have had major consequences.

"In terms of nutrition - perhaps diabetes - if you don’t get all your pancreatic enzymes you will lose weight because you are not absorbing all your essential fats and so the part of what he is going through is consequences of a bad operation as well," he says. "Plus he has other issues having a liver transplant in terms of immuno-suppression that might actually affect the growth of the tumor.”

El-Shami says some types of pancreatic cancer can run in families. Smoking and alcohol use are linked to the disease. But he says there is no known cause for the majority of cases.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs