Maria Menounos diagnosis highlights pancreatic cancer

WATCH: What to know about pancreatic cancer

Television personality Maria Menounos opens with a recent health scare, revealing details of a private battle with pancreatic cancer.

Menounos, 44, told People magazine that she began experiencing symptoms, including “excruciating abdominal pain,” late last year.

When the pain persisted after test results came back inconclusive, Menounos said she underwent a full-body MRI that revealed a mass on her pancreas.

“I’m like, ‘How the hell do I have a brain tumor and pancreatic cancer?’” Menounos told People. “All I thought about was that I had a baby coming.”

Menounos announced in February that she and her husband Keven Undergaro are expecting their first child via surrogate. Previously, the couple’s ten-year plans to have a child were put on hold in 2017 when Menounos underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor.

Menounos said that after doctors found the mass on his pancreas, a biopsy determined it was a stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, a type of pancreatic cancer where the tumor forms in the pancreatic islet cells, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic via Getty Images, FILE

Maria Menounos arrives at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles.

In February, Menounos said he underwent surgery to remove the mass from his pancreas, as well as his spleen, a fibroid and 17 lymph nodes.

“It was very painful,” she said of her recovery from surgery. “I couldn’t move or lift myself up.”

MORE: Maria Menounos expecting first child via surrogate, says late mother ‘made it happen on the other side’

Because the cancer was detected early, Menounos did not require any chemotherapy and will not need additional treatment, according to People. Her doctor, Dr. Ryan Aronin, and her surgeon, Dr. Timothy Donahue, told the outlet that Menounos will need annual checkups for the next five years.

“I’m so grateful and so lucky,” Menounos said, adding of her daughter, who is due this summer: “God has blessed me with a miracle. I’m going to appreciate having her in my life much more than I wouldn’t have done it before this trip.”

What to know about pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of new cancer cases in the United States, but about 8% of cancer deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute.

More recently, the disease made headlines with the death of Alex Trebek, Patrick Swayze and the star of “Sex and the City” Willie Garson. All three died of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that develops from two types of cells in the pancreas, a six-inch-long gland located between the stomach and spine, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, the type of cancer Menounos said he faces, are less common but have a better prognosis. Exocrine cell cancer is usually detected at a later stage and therefore generally has a poorer prognosis, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Overall, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is just over 12 percent, according to data from the National Cancer Institute.

MORE: Lisa Niemi Swayze Reflects on Patrick Swayze’s Battle with Pancreatic Cancer: ‘He Truly Was a Hero’

Although some pancreatic tumors produce no symptoms, others may cause symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal or back pain, a lump in the abdomen, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. according to the National Cancer Institute.

In many cases, symptoms of pancreatic cancer may not appear until the cancer has spread.

“Part of the reason it tends to be so deadly has to do with anatomy,” ABC News chief medical correspondent said. Dr. Jennifer Ashton said in 2020, following Trebek’s death from pancreatic cancer. “If you look at where the pancreas is, it’s at the top of the abdominal cavity. You can’t palpate it or feel it during a physical exam.”

She continued: “By the time it produces symptoms, such as yellowing of the skin and eyes or weight loss, it has usually metastasized or spread to an advanced stage.”

What makes pancreatic cancer even more difficult to diagnose is that there is no screening test, according to Ashton.

Treatment for pancreatic cancer can include everything from surgery to chemotherapy and radiation to new targeted therapies.

Currently, the cause of pancreatic cancer is not known. Risk factors include family history, smoking, being overweight, diabetes and more, according to the American Cancer Society.


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