News, Culture & Society

Eric Idle, 79, reveals he survived ‘lethal’ pancreatic cancer after rare early diagnosis

Monty Python star Eric Idle, 79, has revealed he survived ‘lethal’ pancreatic cancer after a rare early diagnosis three years ago.

The comedian feels ‘very fortunate’ to have had the disease, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, detected at an early stage and after undergoing surgery, he is now back to good health.

He said in an interview with TIME: ‘About three years ago I was incredibly lucky: I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

‘One of the most lethal forms of cancer, how on earth was that lucky? Well, because it was found incredibly early… before it had gone anywhere.’

Fighter: Monty Python star Eric Idle, 79, has revealed he survived ‘lethal’ pancreatic cancer after a rare early diagnosis three years ago (pictured in 2019) 

The actor and comedian admitted his secret battle with the disease motivated him to take part in The Masked Singer US and even though he was unmasked as The Hedgehog on Tuesday’s premiere episode, the programme ‘changed [his] life’. 

He told Entertainment Tonight: ‘The whole thing was very Zen. I really liked it. It changed my life to be honest. I had pancreatic cancer, and I have been very fortunate and lucky to survive.

‘It was caught early, I had a big operation at Cedars and they saved my life, and I hadn’t told anybody.’

After having his surgery, the comic ‘plucked up the courage to ask [his] doctor how long [he] had’ and was stunned by the response.

Grateful: The comedian feels 'very fortunate' to have had the disease, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers (pictured in 1975's Monty Python And The Holy Grail)

Grateful: The comedian feels ‘very fortunate’ to have had the disease, which has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers (pictured in 1975’s Monty Python And The Holy Grail) 

He recalled: ‘He said, “Oh at least 10 years. You’re very fit, you’re healthy, the cancer’s all gone”. And I hadn’t really counted on that.

‘So I thought, “Here’s my chance to do something good”. I have to come out now with my cancer [battle], tell people I’ve survived, and share that experience.’

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of the disease, and around 95 per cent of people who contract it die from it.  

Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.

Bold move: The actor and comedian admitted his secret battle with the disease motivated him to take part in The Masked Singer US

Bold move: The actor and comedian admitted his secret battle with the disease motivated him to take part in The Masked Singer US

It is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK – around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK, alongside about 55,000 in the US. 

It is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.  

 Pancreatic cancer typically does not show symptoms in the early stages, when it would be more manageable. 

Sufferers tend to start developing the tell-tale signs – jaundice and abdominal pain – around stage 3 or 4, when it has likely already spread to other organs.  

Eric has teamed up with Stand Up to Cancer to form the Bright Side fund, which was inspired by his experiences on the reality show.

He said: ‘We’re going to raise money specifically for research and early testing to help other people survive this thing.

‘And it was a bit of an epiphany for me and it was entirely because of The Masked Singer experience, and I’m very grateful to them for that.’

Writing on his Twitter, with a link to Stand Up To Cancer, he said: ‘I did the Masked Singer because I wanted to see if I could still do it after I had survived Pancreatic Cancer. 

‘My life was saved by early screening and an op. Now I’m starting the Bright Side Fund to raise money to help save others.’ 

WHAT IS PANCREATIC CANCER?

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of the disease, and around 95 per cent of people who contract it die from it.  

Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.

It is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK – around 10,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK, alongside about 55,000 in the US.

WHAT IS THE CAUSE?

It is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.

WHO HAS THE HIGHEST RISK?

Most cases (90 per cent) are in people over the age of 55.

Around half of all new cases occur in people aged 75 or older.

One in 10 cases are attributed to genetics.

Other possible causes include age, smoking and other health conditions, including diabetes.

WHY IS IT SO LETHAL?

There is no screening method for pancreatic cancer. 

Pancreatic cancer typically does not show symptoms in the early stages, when it would be more manageable. 

Sufferers tend to start developing the tell-tale signs – jaundice and abdominal pain – around stage 3 or 4, when it has likely already spread to other organs.    

WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS? 

The only effective treatment is removal of the pancreas. 

This proves largely ineffective for those whose cancer has spread to other organs. 

In those cases, palliative care is advised to ease their pain at the end of their life.  

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk