Trebek's Legacy Will Live On
- As his final episodes air, we remember how Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek’s openness about his pancreatic cancer battle made a global impact in terms of raising awareness of the disease.
- 80% of pancreatic cancer cases are only detected once they’ve reached later stages. Trebek’s openness about his own diagnosis helped raise awareness of the disease’s symptoms and need for early screening, which is already saving lives.
- One fan, Chuck Paulausky, was able to catch his cancer early because of Trebek’s willingness to describe his own symptoms.
Trebek may be gone but his contribution to the health and well-being of many of his followers is difficult to measure, though we know it’s tremendous.Read More
In the last weeks of his cancer battle, Trebek never slowed down and filmed until two weeks before his death. The final five shows will air every day through Friday, when his ultimate episode will be commemorated with a lengthy tribute.
In honor of Trebek’s last shows, the Jeopardy! Instagram page is paying tribute to the legendary host’s long career and special place in our hearts.
“36 years. Over 8,200 episodes. Countless memories,” one post read. “Tune in for Alex’s last week of shows.”
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Others showed Alex’s distant travels for themed questions on Jeopardy, with one reading, “There’s nothing quite like presenting clues in Petra.”
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Yet another highlighted the hilarious costumes Trebek was so fond of wearing during thematic clues.
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We want to look back at his amazing achievements in raising awareness for the disease he fought so bravely against. To the very end, he worked to make sure others were aware of pancreatic cancer and could detect the disease early.
“The Trebek Effect”
Trebek’s willingness to speak openly about his diagnosis brought information about pancreatic cancer to millions of people for the first time.
In the days immediately after he announced his diagnosis, the number of people searching for “pancreatic cancer” increased thirty-fold.
“We saw a tremendous spike in people coming to our website around [Trebek announcing his cancer diagnosis],” Julie Fleshman, president and CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, previously told SurvivorNet. “People called into our patient services program which I always think is one of the most important results. People were calling us to get information and resources. We saw a significant impact in numbers across the board.”
Less than a month after starting his fight, Trebek partnered with the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition to produce a PSA about the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. The response was far beyond what anyone was expecting.
“We have had such a tremendous response to the PSA that continues to keep going,” The World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “[Trebek’s] decision to become involved in the World Pancreatic Cancer Day global initiative is having a big impact on heightening awareness of the risks and symptoms of this terrible disease.”
One Fan’s Life
Trebek’s openness will likely save thousands of lives by calling attention to the disease and the need for early screening, but his work is already paying off. Life-long fan Chuck Paulausky was watching Jeopardy! one night when he realized that many of the symptoms Trebek was describing matched things he himself had been experiencing. He immediately called his doctor and discovered that he had stage 1 pancreatic cancer.
Because the disease was caught so early, Paulausky was able to undergo chemotherapy and enter remission – all because of Trebek.
“I sent a note to him that he saved my life,” Paulasky told The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. “It’s unusual for pancreatic cancer to be caught early, and education about the symptoms is the key.”
Pancreatic Cancer: What to Know
Pancreatic cancer is among the most challenging forms of cancer for patients and doctors to combat.
“It is the solid tumor cancer that has the worst prognosis. It is right now the third leading cause of cancer death, soon to be the second leading of cancer death in the United States,” Dr. Allyson Ocean, medical oncologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center, said.
Pancreatic cancer is typically detected once the disease has progressed to its later stages, as symptoms rarely appear in early phases. Even when caught, there are few effective treatments and medications that can successfully target and kill pancreatic cancer cells.
“The cancer cells are surrounded by what is called a stroma,” Dr. Ocean said, “and the stroma serves as a barrier for medications to get to the cancer to kill it.”
Combined, these factors explain why the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 9%.
Innovation and Awareness Can Improve Outcomes
However, there is hope for pancreatic cancer patients. New experimental therapies show promise in managing symptoms and suppress tumorous growth. Pioneering immunotherapies proposed by medical experts like Dr. Soon-Shiong have been successful in combatting the disease, with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying these treatments saved him.
“It’s made a tremendous difference in my life,” Reid told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “It’s something that people could only dream of a year ago.”
Medical experts urge vigilance in checking yourself for potential symptoms of pancreatic cancer, which include:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to your back
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- Light-colored stools
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- New diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that’s becoming more difficult to control
- Blood clots