alex trebek
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Alex Trebek

The host of the long-running game show Jeopardy! announced in March of 2019 that he had stage IV pancreatic cancer. In an interview with Jane Pauley of CBS, he said that it started with a pain in his stomach that wouldn’t go away. Even though he felt bad, he kept on taping Jeopardy! through his chemo treatments. He also took part in PurpleStride Los Angeles, an organized walk to raise money for research.

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steve jobs
2 / 16

Steve Jobs

In 2003, doctors diagnosed the larger-than-life CEO of Apple with a rare neuroendocrine tumor. This was not actually pancreatic cancer, but a different type that happened to start in his pancreas. Surgeons tried to remove it, but it came back and spread to his liver. Jobs stepped down as Apple's CEO in August 2011, and he passed away from the disease on Oct. 5 of that year.

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ruth bader ginsburg
3 / 16

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Doctors diagnosed the Supreme Court justice with pancreatic cancer in 2009. Soon after that, surgeons removed her pancreas and spleen. Ginsburg had already had surgery and chemotherapy for colorectal cancer in 1999. In the 2018 documentary RBG, she says her struggles with cancer gave her “an enhanced appreciation for the joys of being alive.”

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aretha franklin
4 / 16

Aretha Franklin

A neuroendocrine tumor in the pancreas, like the one that took the life of Steve Jobs, also struck the legendary Queen of Soul. She had faced health problems for several years but had kept details about her illness a secret. Franklin’s last performance was for the Elton John AIDS Foundation on Nov. 2, 2017, in New York City. She died on Aug. 26, 2018, at age 76.

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sir john hurt
5 / 16

John Hurt

The celebrated English actor was known for his roles in the Harry Potter movies, Alien, and The  Elephant Man. In 2015, he revealed that he had early-stage pancreatic cancer. He kept on working after his diagnosis. He said at the time: “I am undergoing treatment and am more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome.” Hurt passed away in January 2017 at age 77.

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luciano pavarotti
6 / 16

Luciano Pavarotti

The wildly popular bearded tenor sang at the world’s greatest opera houses and classical music halls. But he also sang with James Brown, Bono, the Spice Girls, and other pop stars. He had surgery in the summer of 2006, after doctors found a cancerous mass in his pancreas. He passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer on Sept. 6, 2007, at age 71.

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sharon jones
7 / 16

Sharon Jones

She came to public attention in 2002 with the album Dap-Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, a mashup of classic ’60s-style soul. Fame, fortune, and five more albums would follow. Doctors diagnosed pancreatic cancer in 2013. To fight it, they removed part of her pancreas and all of her gallbladder. The cancer came back 9 months later. Jones died from the disease in November 2016, at age 60.

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alan rickman
8 / 16

Alan Rickman

The English actor came to fame playing villains: Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Kids the world over know him as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Rickman died of pancreatic cancer on January 14, 2016, at age 69.

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dizzy gillespie
9 / 16

Dizzy Gillespie

A towering figure in jazz history, John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie helped define the bebop style in the 1940s. He was honored by both fellow musicians and U.S. presidents for his decades of performance. Doctors were treating Gillespie for pancreatic cancer when he died in January 1993 at age 75.

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sally ride
10 / 16

Sally Ride

She was one of America’s first female astronauts. And in June 1983, she became the first U.S. woman in space when she flew in the space shuttle Challenger. Age 32 at the time, she was also the youngest U.S. astronaut to go into space. She died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, at age 61, 17 months after her diagnosis.

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patrick swayze
11 / 16

Patrick Swayze

His breakthrough came in 1983’s The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. After that, he famously played Jennifer Grey’s dance teacher in the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing and Demi Moore’s departed love in Ghost. Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 20 months before dying of the disease in 2009 at age 57.

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michael landon
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Michael Landon

He’s most famous as Little Joe on the TV series Bonanza, and Charles Ingalls on Little House On the Prairie. Doctors diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer in April 1991. “I think you have to have a sense of humor about everything,” he said at the time. “If you’re going to try to beat something, you’re not going to do it standing in the corner.” Landon died of the disease July 1, 1991. He was 54.

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joan crawford
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Joan Crawford

The legendary Hollywood actress got her first big break in 1928 during the silent movie era. She made 80 films over more than 50 years, and won an Oscar for her role in Mildred Pierce. She was battling pancreatic cancer in May 1977 when she died of a heart attack in New York City. She was 69, according to the Los Angeles Times, though her birthdate isn't known for sure. 

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gene upshaw
14 / 16

Gene Upshaw

A master of the running play, Upshaw played 15 seasons for the Oakland Raiders. The first player to reach the Super Bowl in 3 different decades, he was also named to seven Pro Bowls. Just after his 63rd birthday in 2008, Upshaw felt sick. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the ER and died 3 days later. For the opening NFL game that year, his jersey number -- 63 -- was on every field, and it was on a patch worn by all players that season.

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benjamin orr
15 / 16

Benjamin Orr

Co-founder and bassist for rock/new wave band The Cars, Benjamin Orr was the vocalist for some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Just What I Needed,” “Let’s Go,” and “Drive.” He also scored a solo Top 40 hit with “Stay the Night.” Orr died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 3, 2000 at the age of 53, less than 6 months after his diagnosis and a week after his last performance.

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charlotte rae
16 / 16

Charlotte Rae

Rae's most famous character, Edna Garrett, appeared first on the TV Show Diff'rent Strokes, and then on a spinoff called The Facts of Life that ran for nine seasons. Doctors diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer around 2010 and then bone cancer in 2017. She died at her home in Los Angeles on Aug. 5, 2018, at age 92.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 05/23/2019 Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on May 23, 2019

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank / U.S. Air Force

2) Matt Yohe / Wikimedia Commons

3) The Oyez Project / Wikimedia Commons

4) Atlantic Records / Wikipedia

5) Martinra1966 / Wikimedia Commons

6) Kingkongphoto / Wikimedia Commons

7) kallerna / Wikimedia Commons

8) Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

9) Roland Godefroy / Wikimedia Commons

10) Wikimedia Commons

11) Jonathan Exley / Contributor / Getty Images

12) Phantoms and Monsters

13) George Hurrell / Wikimedia Commons

14) Heinz Kluetmeier / Contributor / Getty Images

15) Fotos International / Contributor / Getty Images

16) bekahjan / Wikipedia

 

SOURCES:

ABC News: “Steve Jobs' Pancreatic Cancer: A Timeline.”

American Cancer Society: “Dr. Len's Blog: Expert perspective, insight and discussion,” “Aretha Franklin Died From Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor, Not Pancreatic Cancer. There Is A Difference.”

The Baltimore Sun: “Jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie dead at 75.”

Billboard: "Benjamin Orr."

Cancer Today: “TV’s Family Man.”

CBS News Sunday Morning: “‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek on his cancer diagnosis.”

CNN Digital: “Pavarotti: I have sung all my life.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Steve Jobs's cancer.”

History.com: “Legendary actress Joan Crawford dies.”

Internet Movie Database: "Ben Orr."

Los Angeles Times: “From the Archives: Joan Crawford, Film Star for 50 Years, Dies at 69.”

Last Word on Pro Football: "Great Raiders From History: Gene Upshaw."

NPR: “Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Is Dead,” “Sharon Jones Is The 21st Century's Godmother Of Soul,” “Luciano Pavarotti Succumbs to Cancer at 71,” "Charlotte Rae, Who Played Mrs. Garrett On '80s Sitcom 'Facts Of Life,' Dies At 92."

Pancreatic Cancer Action: “Sir John Hurt passes away from pancreatic cancer aged 77.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: “Patrick Swayze’s Legacy Lives on to Fight Pancreatic Cancer,” “Two Great Women, Two Great Movies,” “About Purplestride,” “Alex Trebek Shares His Pancreatic Cancer Journey.”

Pancreatic Cancer UK: “Alan Rickman: Celebrating a life.”

People: "Classic Car."

Pro Football Hall of Fame: "Gene Upshaw."

Rolling Stone: “Sharon Jones Fights On: ‘I Have Cancer; Cancer Don’t Have Me.’ ”

The Guardian: “Patrick Swayze obituary,” “Sally Ride obituary,” “Alan Rickman obituary,” “Sharon Jones obituary,” “Luciano Pavarotti,” “Sir John Hurt obituary,” “John Hurt 'more than optimistic' as he reveals pancreatic cancer diagnosis.”

The Independent: “Alan Rickman: British actor died from ‘pancreatic cancer.’ ”

The Telegraph: “Sir John Hurt, legendary British actor who starred in Alien, Harry Potter and Midnight Express, dies aged 77.”

USA Today: “Aretha Franklin, ‘Queen of Soul’ who transformed American music, dies at 76.”

Variety: “Cancer silences jazz great Gillespie at 75.”

The Washington Post: “Jazz Trumpet Titan Dizzy Gillespie Dies,” “Aretha Franklin, music’s ‘Queen of Soul,’ dies at 76.”

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on May 23, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.