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Jeopardy! Might Not Be Alex Trebek’s Greatest Legacy

By Sara Butler

Final Jeopardy

By now, you’ve likely heard that Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! fame has died after his 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

I’ll take “Really Sad News” for $1,000, Alex.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 57,000 people per year are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And about 47,000 people die per year from it. It’s a deadly form of cancer with a poor prognosis, made worse by the fact that it’s normally caught at an advanced stage when treatment options are less effective.

The final answer to pancreatic cancer is understanding it better. What are the risk factors for this disease and what are the symptoms? Here are the clues you need to know about avoiding Final Jeopardy.

Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer

There are risk factors for pancreatic cancer you can control and factors you cannot. While having these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll get this disease, it’s a good idea to try to limit your risk factors so you can ensure continued good health.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco - Smoking is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. Smokers have about twice the risk of developing this cancer than those who do not smoke. If you use smokeless tobacco or cigars, that also increases your risk.
  • Body weight - Another risk factor for pancreatic cancer is having a body mass index (BMI) over 30. This is especially true for those who tend to carry extra weight around the waist, even if they don’t have a higher BMI.
  • Sex - Men have a slightly higher risk of developing this disease than women.
  • Age - Pancreatic cancer is mostly found in people over the age of 45. Seventy is the average age of diagnosis.
  • Family history - If your family has a history of pancreatic cancer, then you may be at higher risk for developing the disease. However, most people who develop this cancer actually don’t have a family history of it.
  • Race - Research has found that people of African American descent are more likely than Caucasians to develop pancreatic cancer, but why isn’t exactly clear.

Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer

Part of what makes this type of cancer so deadly is that it is not caught early in many people. The best thing you can do is listen to your body and acknowledge when something simply doesn’t feel right.

The most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include:

  • Loss of appetite - This is an early warning sign for several conditions, not simply pancreatic cancer. That’s why, when you experience loss of appetite or feel full after only a few bites and have no explanation for it, you should bring it to the attention of your doctor.
  • Fatigue - Another symptom of this disease is extreme lethargy. When your body isn’t working properly, then other parts of your body work harder to compensate. This can lead to fatigue which, when combined with other symptoms, should be addressed.
  • Pain in the abdomen - Pain associated with pancreatic cancer can happen anywhere in your abdomen but is felt most often in the middle. You may notice the pain radiate into your back too.
  • Unexpected weight loss - Your pancreas produces enzymes your body needs to break down the food you eat. If there are not enough of those enzymes , then you may experience unexpected weight loss. If you lose weight without trying, then talk to your doctor.

Final Jeopardy

Pancreatic cancer is a tough diagnosis. The best thing you can do is to be aware of risk factors and symptoms so that you can catch it early if your name is ever called.

Though there are many things we can remember Alex Trebek for, including the 40,000-plus hours of entertainment and endless questions and answers to win bar bets, saving our life might well be his greatest legacy.

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