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Patrick Swayze Hospitalized With Pneumonia

Swayze, Who Has Pancreatic Cancer, Checked Himself Into Hospital for Pneumonia
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 9, 2009 -- Actor Patrick Swayze, who has stage IV pancreatic cancer, has checked himself into a hospital for observation because he has pneumonia.

Executives from A&E, the network behind Swayze's new TV show, The Beast, announced Swayze's hospitalization today in Las Vegas at the Television Critics Association.

Swayze, 56, was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, which had already spread to his liver, in March 2008. Swayze spoke with ABC's Barbara Walters about his cancer and cancer treatment in a television interview that aired two days ago.

Is Swayze's pancreatic cancer related to his pneumonia? What does the pneumonia mean for Swayze's prognosis?

For answers, WebMD spoke with Alok Khorana, MD, a gastrointestinal oncologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Would Swayze's cancer or cancer treatment have anything to do with his pneumonia?

"Probably, because he's otherwise relatively young and I don't think he has any respiratory illness," Khorana tells WebMD. "Being on chemotherapy obviously suppresses your immune system and puts you at risk for infections."

Does his cancer and his weakened immune system make it harder for him to recover from the pneumonia?

Khorana says that although the details of Swayze's chemotherapy haven't been made public, "most chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer doesn't cause you to be that immune suppressed, so usually people bounce back relatively quickly."

So it suppresses the immune system, but not so much that it would be particularly hard to recover from pneumonia?
"Exactly," says Khorana.

Does having pneumonia affect Swayze's prognosis?

"Usually not," says Khorana. "Most likely, this is going to be a quick episode. He'll get [intravenous] antibiotics for a few days, recover, and get back on track."

But Khorana adds that if Swayze's cancer had spread to his lungs and caused an obstruction that led to the pneumonia, then "that would change the prognosis completely."

Khorana notes that the source of Swayze's pneumonia isn't clear from media reports. "It needs to be worked up and figured out," says Khorana. "If it's just mild immune suppression and he has pneumonia from that, then he should be out in a few days. If it's something else, then obviously that would change things."

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