After Trebek's announcement, a glimmer of hope for a deadly disease

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COLUMBIA - Thursday, a day after Jeopardy host Alex Trebek announced his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis, KOMU 8 spoke with doctors who fight the disease.

"We've gotten very good at doing the surgery," says Dr. Kevin Staveley-O'Carroll, Director of MU Health Care's Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. "It's a surgery that used to have a lot of complications and a very high risk of dying."

The statistics surrounding pancreatic cancer paint a picture that gives very little hope for those diagnosed with the disease.

It is the third-leading cause of cancer related deaths within the United States, with only 9 percent of those diagnosed surviving longer than five years. 

But according to experts like Dr. Staveley-O'Carroll, research has begun to provide a glimmer of hope with improvements being made in detection and treatment methods.

One aspect of treatment for pancreatic cancer that has been improved is the surgery in which doctors remove the portion of the pancreas that is infected.

According to Dr. Staveley-O'Carroll, the risk of dying from this surgery used to be 25 percent, but is now down to one-to-two percent.

But unfortunately complications can still occur even after removing the cancer.

"To the best of our knowledge we've gotten it all but seven out of ten times, maybe even eight out of ten times, it eventually comes back and if it comes back in the liver or the lungs, or somewhere else, it's incurable," he said.

Despite this, the news that progress is being made brings with it a breath of fresh air, for families like Nate Peck's who have lost family members to this deadly disease.

"To know that finally they're making progress and such a terrible death curse like pancreatic cancer, it's amazing to hear that finally one more person at least can say that their father or mother has overcome something once impossible," says Peck.

To learn more about pancreatic cancer and the efforts being made to help end this terrible disease, go to