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Patrick Swayze and Pancreatic Cancer

How Patrick Swayze Was Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer


Updated November 23, 2011

Patrick Swayze and Pancreatic Cancer
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Patrick Swayze, star of such box office hits as Dirty Dancing and Ghost, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2008. Despite an initial outbreak of rumors that the actor only had weeks to live, Swayze’s doctor was optimistic about his prognosis, stating that he was responding well to pancreatic cancer treatment.

Sadly, however, it was announced the Swayze lost his battle with the disease on September 14, 2009.

In the year after the announcement of his disease, Swayze, 56, continued to fight pancreatic cancer, all the while battling tabloid rumors that continued to issue false statements about his condition. In December 2008, Swayze denied that he was saying his final goodbyes to his family. “It’s a battle, and so far, I’ve been winning,” he stated.

Swayze's cancer treatment regimen included an experimental drug called vatalanib, a drug that inhibits the enzyme activity that promotes cancer cell growth and proliferation. The drug has yet to be approved for pancreatic cancer and clinical trials are ongoing. Check to see if you or someone you know qualifies for the vatalanib clinical trial for pancreatic cancer.

In an exclusive interview with Barbara Walters, which aired in January 2009, Swayze talked openly about his illness, describing the initial pancreatic cancer symptoms that led to his diagnosis. In late 2007, he began having indigestion problems and rapidly lost weight. After lengthy medical tests, it was discovered that he had stage IV pancreatic cancer that had already spread to the liver.

Smoking is identified as one of the risks of pancreatic cancer, and Swayze admitted he has smoked for many years. In his interview with Walters, he suggested that smoking likely had something to do with his developing cancer.

Shortly after the airing, Swayze was hospitalized with pneumonia, igniting a media frenzy that speculated that he was dying. Swayze was released from the hospital days later. Buy the 20/20 DVD Patrick Swayze: The Truth, A Barbara Walters Special

In a testament to his strength and perseverance, Swayze continued to work, and was seen most recently in the A&E drama, The Beast in which he starred. During filming, Swayze amazed his coworkers by working 12-hour days without painkillers, despite the intense pain he experienced. He had also begun a new chemotherapy regimen and was planning to write his memoirs with his wife, Lisa Niemi, whom he was married to for 33 years.

Amidst persistent rumors of his condition, Swayze told People magazine, “I am one of the lucky ones with pancreatic cancer that is responding well to the treatment.” In April 2008, longtime friend and Ghost costar Whoopi Goldberg told Britain's GMTV, "He does not have an expiration date on his backside -- none of us do. We just know at some point it's going to happen, and that's how he's looking at it.”

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