Patrick Swayze's Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms and Treatment Plan

Before the late actor Patrick Swayze received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in March 2008, he experienced a number of symptoms that led him to get help.

When the news broke, rumors circulated that the beloved star of "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost" had just weeks to live, but Swayze's doctor denied these rumors, expressing optimism about his prognosis and stating that the actor was responding well to pancreatic cancer treatment.

Swayze succumbed to pancreatic cancer September 14, 2009, at the young age of 57, about a year and a half after his diagnosis.

Between the time of his diagnosis and the time of his death, he tried to raise awareness about this form of cancer by detailing his symptoms during television appearances and interviews.

Patrick Swayze's Cancer Symptoms

In an exclusive interview with Barbara Walters that aired in January 2009, Swayze talked openly about his illness, describing the initial pancreatic cancer symptoms that led to his diagnosis.

In late 2007, Swayze began having indigestion problems and rapidly lost weight. After giving him lengthy medical tests, doctors discovered that the actor had stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had already spread to his liver.

Doctors have identified smoking as one of pancreatic cancer's risk factors, and Swayze admitted to smoking for many years. In his interview with Walters, he suggested that smoking likely had something to do with his developing cancer.

However, it's difficult for doctors to pinpoint a definitive cause of a cancer type in most cases. Many smokers, for example, may not develop pancreatic cancer but still face risks for developing another form of cancer. ​

Shortly after Swayze's candid interview with Barbara Walters, the actor was hospitalized with pneumonia. This ignited a media frenzy that speculated that Swayze was on his deathbed, but he left the hospital days later.

In a testament to his strength and perseverance, Swayze continued to work while receiving cancer treatment. Most notably, he starred in the A&E drama "The Beast." During filming, Swayze amazed his coworkers by working 12-hour days without painkillers, despite the intense discomfort that he experienced as a result.

He also began a new chemotherapy regimen and planned to write his memoirs with his wife, Lisa Niemi, to whom he was married for 33 years.

man, guy in a white t shirt on a white background hold hands on his stomach, liver pain, pancreas, kidneys problems
Evgeniy Anikeev / Getty Images

Treatment Regimen

Swayze's cancer treatment regimen included an experimental drug called vatalanib, which inhibits the enzyme activity that promotes cancer cell growth and proliferation. The drug has yet to be approved for pancreatic cancer and clinical trials are ongoing.

Amidst persistent rumors of his condition, Swayze maintained a positive attitude, telling People magazine, "I am one of the lucky ones with pancreatic cancer that is responding well to the treatment."

In April 2008, his longtime friend and "Ghost" co-star Whoopi Goldberg told Britain's GMTV that Swayze was not living as if he had "an expiration date on his backside." Instead, the actor and his loved ones, "just know at some point it's going to happen, and that's how he's looking at it."

Swayze was remembered fondly by Hollywood when he ultimately did pass, and his death helped to shine a spotlight on pancreatic cancer.

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