Harvard Health Letter

Steve Jobs's cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a dreaded and especially deadly type of cancer. Steve Jobs fared better than many with pancreatic cancer. The charismatic co-founder of Apple died on Oct. 5, 2011, almost exactly eight years after his cancer was discovered incidentally on a CT scan of his kidneys . But some cancer specialists would say Jobs didn't have pancreatic cancer at all — at least not in the way it is usually described. He had a rare form of cancer called a neuroendocrine tumor. They do occur in the pancreas, but two-thirds of neuroendocrine tumors develop elsewhere in the body. Neuroendocrine tumors and the kind of cancer that typically affects the pancreas arise from different types of cells, have different symptoms, and are treated differently. People can lead relatively normal lives for several years with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, even if they've metastasized outside the pancreas. Only several thousand cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, although the number has been increasing.
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