Published March 06, 2008
"Dirty Dancing" star Patrick Swayze has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — one of the most fatal forms of the disease — and is undergoing treatment, a representative for the actor said Wednesday in a written statement.
The statement followed a report earlier in the day by the National Enquirer that said Swayze, 55, had five weeks to live after doctors in late January diagnosed pancreatic cancer that had spread to other organs.
Swayze’s rep issued a statement Wednesday after the report began circulating, claiming the star is continuing his normal work schedule, and Swayze’s doctor said the reports of the actor's imminent death are unfounded.
"Patrick has a very limited amount of disease and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far. All of the reports stating the timeframe of his prognosis and his physical side effects are absolutely untrue. We are considerably more optimistic," Swayze’s physician, George Fisher, said in a statement.
Fisher is an associate professor of teaching at Stanford University Cancer Center and is involved in many experimental cancer treatments.
Caught in its advanced stages, pancreatic cancer, which strikes about 30,000 people a year, has a less than 5 percent survival rate for five years. If caught early and treated aggressively with surgery and chemotherapy — and if the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes — the five-year survival rate can go as high as 17 to 25 percent, said Avram Cooperman, surgical director for the Pancreas and Biliary Center at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.
It was not known whether Swayze had undergone surgery to remove the cancer or if any surgery was planned.
Swayze's mother, famed choreographer Patsy Swayze, told E! News she knows her son is sick.
"I don't really want to talk about it, but I know he's sick," she said. "But he has great doctors and a great prognosis, and that's all I can say."
For the past month, Swayze has been traveling to Stanford University Cancer Center in Palo Alto for radical chemotherapy, the Enquirer reported, which also quoted sources saying he had received three doses of chemotherapy. The tumor shrank, but less than his doctors had hoped for, the Enquirer reported.
Swayze's representative Annett Wolf told The Associated Press the "Ghost" actor's upcoming cable pilot still is in contention to become a series.
With the writers' strike over, the A&E pilot "The Beast," starring Swayze as an unorthodox FBI agent, was being considered to be turned into a series by the cable network. If that happens, Swayze hopes to continue to be part of the show.
A&E issued a statement Wednesday stating "The Beast" still was in contention to become one of the network's new original drama series and wished Swayze a speedy recovery.
Wolf said Swayze shot "The Beast" pilot last December and is not working on any new projects. Jennifer Grey, Swayze's co-star in the hugely popular 1987 romance "Dirty Dancing," told the New York Post she was "shocked" by the news of the actor's illness.
"That makes me feel very sad," she said.
Grey said she hadn't kept up with Swayze in the years since "Dancing," but "If I saw him on the streets today, I'd throw my arms around him and love him up."
Swayze, who impressed with his dance moves in "Dirty Dancing," had another hit with the romantic movie "Ghost" in 1990.
The tearjerker, which co-starred Demi Moore, was nominated for Best Picture, and Whoopi Goldberg won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Goldberg said Thursday on "The View" that she hadn't been able to call Swayze since learning he has pancreatic cancer, but "we want you to feel better and we'll talk soon."
She also pointed out how Swayze is the only one she remembered to thank when she won her Oscar for "Ghost." She said she wouldn't have won the role or the Oscar if Swayze hadn't insisted that she be hired to play Oda Mae Brown.
Swayze and his wife, fellow dancer Lisa Niemi, have been married for 32 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.