the Queen

Aretha Franklin Stricken With Cancer

The Detroit News

Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin is suffering from pancreatic cancer, a source familiar with the situation has told The Detroit News.

Franklin has been quiet about the nature of the illness that prompted her to cancel all upcoming events, although she did acknowledge last week that she’d successfully undergone a surgical procedure.

The illness has been an increasing subject of speculation, including a post today by the National Enquirer. Separately, Fox 2 in Detroit also posted today that Franklin has cancer, attributing the information to “a close relative.”

The News contacted Franklin’s publicist, Tracey Jordan, who did not have a comment from Franklin.

The 68-year-old Queen of Soul announced in November that she was taking six months off under doctor’s orders, but did not reveal the nature of her condition.

She underwent a procedure at a Detroit hospital last Thursday and released a statement calling the surgery “highly successful,” praising her “superb doctors and nurses who were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country.”

It is the only major cancer with a prognosis in the single digits, and those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer have a 5 percent chance of living five years, said Dr. Diane Simeone, director of the multidisciplinary Pancreatic Tumor Clinic at the University of Michigan. Of those, 85 percent are not candidates for surgery and must undergo treatments which are not curative.

“It has the worst prognosis of any major human malignancy,” Simeone said. “It is the most dreaded cancer to get.”

But the news isn’t entirely bleak. While actors Michael Landon and Patrick Swayze succumbed to pancreatic cancer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have, so far, survived it.

The pancreas is a gland in the deep recesses of the mid-abdomen behind the stomach. It produces insulin to control blood sugar and enzymes to aid digestion.

The primary risk factor for developing cancer in the pancreas is smoking. About 10 percent of patients have the cancer in their families. It is often deadly since often there are no noticeable signs in the early stages of the cancer. When present, it can imitate signs of several other illnesses. Symptoms of the cancer can include jaundice, unexplained weight loss, pain in the abdomen, fatigue and loss of appetite.

An estimated 36,800 were expected to die from pancreatic cancer this year, making it the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women, according to the National Cancer Institute. In Michigan, 1,355 residents died from pancreatic cancer in 2007, the latest data available.

Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2010 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.



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