Swayze's death highlights need for better pancreatic cancer treatments

Although Patrick Swayze finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer Monday, the star of blockbuster movies "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost" had in a sense already beaten the odds. The 57-year-old star died at home with his family after battling one of the deadliest cancers for 20 months -- more than three times longer than the average six-month survival rate for the advanced stage of cancer he had.

Pancreatic cancer first affects the tissues of the pancreas and often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early, often leading to death. It typically spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages because signs and symptoms may not appear until the cancer has metastasized, making surgery impossible. It is a leading cause of cancer death. The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 42,470 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2009 and 35,240 deaths.