Why Technology Couldn't Save Steve Jobs

By Megan Trent

October 7, 2011 Updated Oct 7, 2011 at 7:04 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Steve Jobs was known for being on the cutting edge of technology, yet no technology existed to cure the cancer that claimed his life.

Jobs was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, although he didn't go public with the information until 2004. He had a very rare form of pancreatic cancer, an inslet cell neuroendocrine tumor, that affects less than 2% of pancreatic cancer patients.

Local doctors say inslet tumors develop slowly, and it's not uncommon for people to live with them for several years. Jobs survived for more than seven years after his diagnosis.

However, pancreatic cancer remains difficult to diagnose. There are no screening tests yet available, and people typically experience few or no symptoms until the disease has spread to surrounding organs. As a result, only 20% of patients qualify for surgery - the only possible cure in conjunction with other therapies. After five years, the overall survival rates drop from 20% to 5%.

Dr. Alan Yahanda with Parkview Hospital says, "There have been small gains here and there. Recent data shows that certain types of chemotherapeutic regimens may give some small survival advantage, but overall pancreas cancer remains a very, very difficult cancer to treat and a very difficult one to cure."

Yahanda says more knowledge into how the cancer grows is needed before targeted drugs can be developed.

People with pancreatic cancer may begin to experience mid-back pain, sudden weight loss, or become jaundice. However, by that time doctors say it's likely the cancer has already spread.

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