Posted by: Chris Maloney | October 7, 2011

Jobs: Pancreatic Cancer and Workaholism

Age-standardised death rates from Pancreas can...

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Steve Jobs has passed.  Something I think no one ever expected, because it just seemed like he was beyond the cancer.

Pancreatic cancer kills so quickly because by the time we see symptoms it is too late.  But a variety of other symptoms show up before the gastric pain.  Half of patients exhibit pronounced anxiety and depression, and a number of blood markers show elevation.  So having a complete routine blood workup is never a terrible idea.

If the cancer is a single piece, it can now be resected (taken out), which increases the average life span from six months to about five years.  One of the standard treatments has been to supplement patients with large quantities of pancreatic enzymes in the hopes of lessening the burden on the pancreas.  There are also trials adding ginkgo extract to standard chemotherapy in the hopes of increasing the effect.

One of the strangest things about patients with pancreatic cancer is that they tend to keep working despite having one of the most lethal cancers.  Jobs and Patrick Swayze are two recent celebrities who just kept doing what they were doing.  I recall a patient who continued to work sixteen hour days to keep his business afloat.  When I asked him why, he said he really didn’t know.  His good-for-nothing son-in-law was going to get the whole thing once he died.  But he couldn’t stop doing what he’d always done.  Lest we think that positive thinking is all that’s needed in this situation, one of the authors of A Course in Miracles also passed from pancreatic cancer.  It can strike anyone, and should give us all enough concern to include in daily life all those things we love the most.

Psychosomatics. 1993 May-Jun;34(3):208-21. Links

Psychopathology of pancreatic cancer. A psychobiologic
probe.Green AI, Austin CP.

Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts Mental Health
Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02115.


Reports of characteristic psychiatric symptoms occurring in
patients with pancreatic cancer appear regularly in the literature. A review
of this literature reveals that symptoms of depression and/or anxiety may
appear in approximately 50% of patients with pancreatic cancer before the
diagnosis is made
. This review proposes that the psychopathology of
pancreatic tumors may be linked to tumor-induced changes in neuroendocrine or
acid-base systems. Although confirmatory data are lacking, informed speculation
centers on the potential role of adrenocorticotropic hormone, parathyroid
hormone, thyrotropin-releasing hormone, glucagon, serotonin, insulin, and
bicarbonate in the production of depression and/or anxiety in this disease.
Elucidation of the pathophysiology of the psychiatric symptoms in patients with
pancreatic cancer may provide a marker for early diagnosis of pancreatic
neoplasia as well as a probe into the biologic bases of depression and anxiety.


PMID: 8493302



  1. pheromonekid reblogged this on pheromonekid.

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