Michael Landon & Other Celebrities With Pancreatic Cancer

A dozen entertainers make this tragic list

Patrick Swayze
Patrick Swayze. Nancy R. Schiff/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Michael Landon, Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze are just a few of the late celebrities diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The disease isn't selective. It strikes regardless of whether one is famous or wealthy. Sadly, most of the celebrities who have battled the disease didn't survive pancreatic cancer.

Their diagnoses have raised awareness about a disease that is often detected in advanced stages and usually fatal.

The death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs especially put a much-needed spotlight on pancreatic cancer. This form of cancer is severely underfunded, largely because of how rare it is and its high mortality rate. While other types of cancer have seen improved five-year survival rates in recent decades, pancreatic cancer's statistics have remained stagnant.

Celebrities Diagnosed With Pancreatic Cancer in the 21st Century 

  • Steve Jobs: Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004. He suffered from pancreatic endocrine cancer, which affects about 2,500 Americans each year. Jobs died in October 2011 after battling the disease for eight years.
  • Luciano Pavarotti: In July 2006, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti underwent surgery to treat a malignant pancreatic mass, forcing him to cancel his farewell tour. A little over a year later in September 2007, Pavarotti died of the disease.

  • Patrick Swayze: Diagnosed in 2008, actor Patrick Swayze battled pancreatic cancer with an experimental drug. He continued to work throughout treatment, a testament to his strength during his battle. Swayze died in September 2009. 
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: In 2009, the Supreme Court judge underwent surgery to treat pancreatic cancer. It was detected during an annual health exam and was in the very early stages of the disease. People with early stage pancreatic cancer generally have better outcomes than those diagnosed in later stages. Ginsburg continues to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

    Classic Cases of Celebrities With Pancreatic Cancer

    • Joan Crawford: Oscar-winning actress and screen legend Joan Crawford died of a heart attack while battling pancreatic cancer in 1971.
    • Jack Benny: Comedian Jack Benny began experiencing symptoms in October 1974, which eventually led to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. The actor died just weeks later in December at age 80.
    • Count Basie: Jazz pianist and composer Count Basie died of pancreatic cancer in April 1984. He was 79.
    • Donna Reed: Actress Donna Reed died of pancreatic cancer just three months after being diagnosed in October 1986. She was 64.
    • Rex Harrison: It is reported that actor Rex Harrison was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1989. Little is known about his diagnosis, such as the stage and treatment. He died in 1990.
    • Michael Landon: Actor Michael Landon's pancreatic cancer was diagnosed in the late stages and had already spread to his liver. Despite intensive treatment, Landon succumbed to the disease in April 1991.
    • Fred Gwynne: Best known for his role on the television series "The Munsters," Fred Gwynne died of pancreatic cancer in July 1993.
    • Henry Mancini: Musical composer Henry Mancini died of pancreatic cancer in June 1994.

    More About Pancreatic Cancer

    Pancreatic cancer affects the pancreas, a small gland that lies behind the stomach and in front of your spine. Your pancreas is responsible for producing digestive juices that help break down food and also for producing hormones that control blood sugar.

    It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

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