Steve Jobs Leave of Absence Explained

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Steve Jobs issued a e-mail today to the employees of Apple regarding his absence last week, handing over the day-to-day reins to Tim Cook, and stating that he will remain CEO.

Jobs, 53, was reported to have pancreatic cancer five years ago. Last week he stated that he suffered from a hormone imbalance that caused him to lose weight. He now says he will be away from the job until the end of June.

The pancreas is an organ located in the middle of the upper abdomen, surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver and spleen. It produces insulin, glucagon, and enzymes to help digest your food.

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is not known, but the following are known risk factors:

* Age – most pancreatic cancer occur in people over 60 yrs
* Smoking – people who smoke are 2-3 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop pancreatic cancer
* Male – more men than women seem to develop pancreatic cancer
* African Americans are more likely than Asians, Hispanics, or whites to get pancreatic cancer
* Family history -- The risk for developing pancreatic cancer triples if a person's mother, father, sister, or brother had the disease. Also, a family history of colon or ovarian cancer increases the risk of pancreatic cancer.

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Treatment for people with pancreatic cancer will depending on the type and stage. Pancreatic cancer may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some patients have a combination of therapies,

Steve Jobs was reported to have had part of his pancreas removed surgically as treatment of his pancreatic cancer. The side effects of surgery will depend on the extent of the operation and the person's general health.

Removal of part or all of the pancreas may make it hard for a patient to digest foods. This may present with diarrhea, pain, cramping, or feelings of fullness. Diet changes and medications are used to help relieve the above symptoms.

There are some patients who won't have enough pancreatic enzymes or hormones after surgery. Those who do not have enough insulin may develop diabetes. Those patients will have to be treated with insulin.

This is in addition to the difficultly pancreatic cancer patients have maintain weight anyway. Many patients lose their appetite and the normal taste of food. Even without having surgery, the pancreas may no longer function well. If the pancreatic duct is obstructed or after surgery, the pancreas may not release sufficient amounts of pancreatic enzymes. Therefore some patients will benefit from taking pancreatic enzymes.

Unfortunately, the problems with weight do not end there. The majority of patients with pancreatic cancer will still lose weight even if they are eating and digesting their food sufficiently. Many pancreas cancers (and other cancers) release compounds into the blood that breakdown muscle and fat (causing cachexia). So that over time patients will find they are not only slimmer but their muscles are smaller and they become progressively more fatigued.

Sources
Apple Media Library
National Institute of Health – Section on Pancreatic Cancer
John Hopkins Medicine

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