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Alex Trebek’s Cancer Announcement

When Alex Trebek posted a video so he could speak directly to viewers of his popular television quiz show, the news that he’s fighting stage IV pancreatic cancer led to a huge outpouring of emotion and concern. Read more here about this cancer and Trebek’s plans for his future.
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Yvette Florio Lane

On March 6, 2019, Alex Trebek, the popular host of the long-running syndicated game show Jeopardy!, stunned many when he announced via a YouTube video that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Trebek, the 78-year-old Canadian-American, became a familiar—even iconic—figure as he presided over the quiz show that has run daily since 1984.

In response, tributes poured out across all forms of media throughout the evening as celebrities, journalists, former contestants, and fans shared their memories of the erudite host and sent him wishes of support as he battles what is regarded as one of the most difficult cancers to surmount.

In the video announcement, Trebek stood alone in the familiar jewel-toned television studio and addressed the millions in the Jeopardy! “fan base.” He said that he wanted to speak to viewers directly, in keeping with his policy of being “open and transparent” and to head off rumors that might circulate about his dire prognosis. He also wanted to assure fans that he would continue to host the show, which he has been doing for the past 35 years. He joked that his contract stipulates that he do so for another 3 years. In any event, he plans to work until the end of the current season, which ends in July.

Trebek said that he intends to beat the disease, which has a 5-year survival rate of 8%. His positive attitude is inspiring; unfortunately, pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that 56,770 people will be diagnosed and 45,750 people will die from the disease in 2019. It is currently the fourth-leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, after lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers; however, a recent study predicted that it will become the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States by the year 2020.

It is in part because of the high fatality rate that Trebek’s announcement provoked such an emotional response. Other well-known people who have the disease, or who have died from it, include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steve Jobs, Luciano Pavarotti, and Patrick Swayze.

Browse through the website for patient stories and helpful articles about pancreatic cancer, and learn about the drugs and support services that are currently available in the CONQUER 2019 Patient Guide to Cancer Support Services.

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Last modified: March 8, 2019

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