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Aretha Franklin Dies of Pancreatic Cancer

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Aug. 16, 2018 -- Aretha Franklin, known as the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday of pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn said through a family statement that Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit. “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit," the statement read.

Numerous news outlets reported earlier in the week that she was in hospice care at home and had been ill for some time. She canceled two scheduled appearances earlier this year on doctor’s orders, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

Franklin had been battling health problems in recent years but never revealed the cause of her ailments.

"I'm not one to go into my personal health things,” she told USA Today in a 2013 interview.

The type of tumor Franklin had is rare -- it's found in about 6% of pancreatic cases -- and tends to grow more slowly. It may not cause any symptoms until it is advanced and is sometimes called an islet cell tumor. Islet cells produce hormones in the pancreas, including insulin.

She also had diabetes, which can raise the odds of pancreatic cancer in people who have it for more than 5 years. It is not clear if the diabetes is a cause or symptom of the cancer.

Franklin's desire to keep her health matters private often led to rumors of various ailments such as pancreatic cancer -- and even her death in 2017. A false Twitter hashtag #RipArethaFranklin forced the “Respect” singer to dismiss the rumors once again.

“I’m doing well generally, all test have come back good,” she wrote in an emailed statement to Us Weekly.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight due to side effects of medicine, it affects your weight … Thanxxxx for your concern,” she added.

During her long career, Franklin won 18 Grammys, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine named her #1 of the 100 greatest singers of all time.

The R&B’s singer’s health scares started after she was hospitalized for several weeks in 2010, leading to rumors that she had pancreatic cancer. She denied that was true, telling Access Hollywood that she had severe pain in her side.

“The pain was so hard it almost brought me to my knees,” Franklin said. She said she eventually had surgery after going through several procedures.

Her doctor said the surgery would add 5 to 20 more years to her life, Franklin recalled.

She later revealed to then-CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien that she had a tumor in 2010, but did not say where it was located.

“Well, I had a tumor. And that was taken care of. It's behind me. And thank God it's behind me,” she said.

In 2013, Franklin canceled two shows because she was getting treatment for an undisclosed medical problem.

She again declined to say what caused the problems, but she later said it was related to her previous health concerns. She said her condition was very common among women, and “I just had to deal with it.” She said that she had a “miraculous” recovery and that her treatment was going well.

Franklin did talk about her struggles with weight and concerns about her health. She said that she had been resting, eating right, and taking better care of herself. That had helped her lower her blood pressure, she said.

"I needed to lose a lot of weight," Franklin told USA Today in 2014 after she lost 85 pounds. "I just did not realize I had gotten as large as I had until I started looking at pictures and, wow, how did that happen?”

She said she switched out fattening foods for low-calorie ones, hired a trainer, and stopped eating after 6 p.m. The change also improved her diabetes, she said.

 

WebMD Article Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 16, 2018

Sources

Us Weekly: “Aretha Franklin Responds to Rumors of Her Death: ‘I’m Doing Well.’”

CNN Transcripts: “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” Jan. 9 2012.

USAToday.com: “Aretha Franklin happily sheds weight, embraces future.”

USAToday.com: “Aretha Franklin says she’s 85% healed."

LATimes.com: “Aretha Franklin cancels two shows for undisclosed medical treatment.”

Access online: “Aretha Franklin Sets the Record Straight On Her Health: ‘I Don’t Know Where Pancreatic Cancer Came From.’”

CNN.com: “Source: Aretha Franklin is in hospice care.”

Rolling Stone: “Aretha Franklin Cancels Upcoming Concerts on Doctor’s Orders.”

Aretha Franklin.net: “Biography.”

Rolling Stone: “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”

Rock &Roll Hall of Fame: “Aretha Franklin.”

Associated Press: “Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin Has Died.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: "Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer."

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: "Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors."

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