Sex and the City fans were saddened this week after news broke that actor Willie Garson, who played Carrie Bradshaw’s friend Stanford Blatch in the franchise, had died. Garson’s cause of death was later revealed in his obituary in The New York Times as pancreatic cancer.
Garson, who was 57, died Tuesday after a “short illness,” according to People. He did not speak publicly about his diagnosis before his death.
His son, Nathen Garson, shared a sweet tribute to his dad on Instagram on Wednesday, writing, “You always were the toughest and funniest and smartest person I’ve known. I’m glad you shared [your] love with me. I’ll never forget it or lose it ❤️😘..” Many actors shared their own public tributes, including SATC star Kristin Davis, who wrote on Instagram that Garson was, “beloved by our entire community. He was smarter and funnier than you ever would have imagined. We are bereft without him.”
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Following Garson’s passing, it’s natural to have questions about pancreatic cancer. Here’s what you need to know about it, including symptoms and treatment.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is form of cancer that starts in your pancreas, an organ that sits behind your stomach, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This particular form of cancer happens when abnormal cells in your pancreas start to grow and divide out of control.
There are two different types of pancreatic cancer, according to the ACS: Cancer that starts in the exocrine cells, which make enzymes that help you digest foods, and cancer that starts in the endocrine cells, which make insulin and glucagon to help control your blood sugar. The ACS says that if you’re told you have pancreatic cancer, you likely have exocrine pancreatic cancer.
What is the survival rate for pancreatic cancer?
Survival rates for pancreatic cancer vary depending on when the cancer is detected. If it’s caught early, patients with pancreatic cancer have a 39% five-year survival rate. If it’s caught in later stages, such as stage 4 cancer, the five-year survival rate is just 3%. Overall, pancreatic cancer has an average five-year survival rate of 10%.
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About 60,430 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year according to the ACS, and about 48,220 will die of the disease.
What causes pancreatic cancer?
It’s not entirely clear what causes pancreatic cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, the ACS lists some risk factors for the disease. Those include:
- BMI of 30 or higher
- Having certain inherited genetic mutations
- Chronic workplace exposure to certain chemicals
- Age (about two-thirds of patients are 65 and older, and the average age of diagnosis is 70)
What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?
Symptoms of pancreatic cancer usually don’t appear until the disease is advanced, according to the Mayo Clinic. At that point, someone may have the following:
- Abdominal pain that radiates to the back
- Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Light-colored stool
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- New diagnosis of diabetes or existing diabetes that’s becoming more difficult to control
- Blood clots
How is pancreatic cancer treated?
If pancreatic cancer is detected in an earlier stage, the ACS says doctors may try to do curative surgery. Other options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or enrolling in a clinical trial, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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