BOSTON (CBS) – Paul Mosca knows he has beaten the odds. He was diagnosed four years ago with pancreatic cancer, which has the lowest survival rate among all the major cancers. “It felt like my feet were nailed to the floor I couldn’t move. I thank God every day I’m alive,” Mosca tells WBZ-TV.
Fortunately for Paul it was detected early due to MRI screenings that he was already getting for chest pain and underwent surgery. “Here I am four years later with no cancer,” he says.
Doctors say the outlook is not so optimistic for “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek who announced he has stage IV pancreatic cancer, the most severe form. “I’m going to fight this and keep working. I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease,” Trebek said in a taped announcement.
Dr. Martin Goodman, a surgical oncologist at Tufts Medical Center, says stage IV means the cancer cells have gotten into the bloodstream and spread usually to another organ or outside of the organs. He says the survival rates are grim for patients like Trebek since there are no symptoms for pancreatic cancer and it’s usually caught when it’s already advanced.
“For 80% of patients, when diagnosed it’s already spread and those patients can never be cured,” said Dr. Goodman.
He says at this point for Trebek the tumor cannot be treated with surgery, but hopefully managed with chemotherapy. “You’re looking at six months to a year,” Dr. Goodman said. “If he responds to chemotherapy it might be a little longer.”
For Paul Mosca, Trebek’s announcement brought the trauma back. “When I saw it on television I got goosebumps, I’ve got goosebumps now,” he says.
Doctors say there’s no screening test for pancreatic cancer and researchers are still trying to find better treatments.