What we know about Steve Jobs' medical journey
January 17th, 2011
02:31 PM ET

What we know about Steve Jobs' medical journey

Apple mogul Steve Jobs’ latest medical leave set off more questions about the world’s most famous tech CEO’s health issues.

In typical, tight-lipped fashion, Jobs, 55, released little detail in a three-paragraph letter to Apple employees.

For years, Jobs’ health has been the subject of speculation and worry due to how directly the company's success  appears to be tied to Jobs.

So far, no information been released about his current medical issue.

Doctors who are not affiliated with Jobs’ care said two of the major issues for patients who’ve had pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant are recurrence of cancer and rejection of the organ.  But without any additional details, the cause of his medical leave could be anything.

In 2009, Jobs received a liver transplant.  Transplant recipients have to take immune-suppressing drugs to help their bodies accept the new organs.  These drugs also weaken their immune systems, which could make them more vulnerable to infections or a recurrence of cancer.

“It’s a fine balancing act,” said Dr. Amit D. Tevar, director of liver transplant surgery at the University of Cincinnati.  “If you give too much [immunosuppressant], they could get early recurrence (of cancer).  If you give too little, you could have rejection of the new liver.”

Tevar said a patient could have organ rejection anytime after a liver transplant.

In general, 70% of  people who receive liver transplants survive five years or longer,  but that depends heavily on the health problem that initially required the transplant.

In 2004, Jobs underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer, removing a treatable form of the disease– a neuroendocrine tumor, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Speculation about his health resurfaced in 2008 after he appeared at press conferences having lost considerable weight.

He initially blamed a “hormone imbalance," but later announced a leave of absence, which lasted 6 months. During that time, he received a liver transplant.  His operation was kept a secret until the Wall Street Journal reported that Jobs had received the transplant at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tennessee.

It was unclear whether his liver transplant was related to his previous cancer fight. But pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor tends to spread to the liver, said Dr. Benjamin Philosophe, chief of the division of transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

It is a persistent cancer because once it has spread to the liver, the cancers have a more than 50 percent chance of returning.

“In general, people with transplants are more likely to develop certain cancers such as  lymphomas and skins cancer,” Philosophe said, citing the body's the suppressed immune system.  “Almost every type of cancer has increased incidence in people who’ve had transplants.”

Philosophe said organ rejection tends to occur soon after the surgery, but it can still occur years later. Chronic rejection occurs  in less than 5% of the cases.  In these cases, the liver is slowly destroyed,  leading to organ failure.

“For the most part, if someone is taking a medical leave, it sounds like they’re starting a battle with something that’s a tough battle,” Philosophe said.  “It’s something planned.”

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. RuPaul

    All I can say is he dont look well, Honey!

    January 17, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Christine

    ! sure wish the best for him. What a horrible thing to go through. The worrying of recurrence has to take it's toll on a person. I hope for a FULL RECOVERY for him.

    January 17, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. MD

    In your article you abbreviated Mr Jobs' pancreatic tumor as PNET. This is tricky because that is actually the abreviation for Primitive NeuroEctodermal Tumor (PNET). This is a much more malignant tumor than his neuroendocrine tumor. Please be careful how you use abreviations.

    January 17, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Butch

    Many folks on liver transplant lists around the US have always questioned how he received a liver transplant. By policy of the national transplant governing agency, liver transplants can only be performed for primary liver cancers, Most of us think he had metastatic pancreatic cancer in his liver. For many of us, it is a question of who was #1 on the wait list at his center which went to him instead..

    I wish him well but it does appear he bought his way onto the ltop spot on the wait list with an ineligible type of cancer.

    January 17, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SN

      Liver transplant is indicated in neuroendocrine tumors, world's largest series published from the Mayo clinic- There is a significant variation among different regions of the country regarding how fast you get a liver transplant -Also if you have a rare blood type you get transplant sooner (with veryhsort wait time)-

      January 17, 2011 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
    • sevres Blue

      Not very charitable, Butch.

      January 17, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
    • Jim8

      So what? You know he paid for the transplant, and probably paid far more than others do. That's life. I know a guy who had no insurance and was poor who didn't get a transplant and died. Life isn't fair. There are people who didn't get into Harvard who had the grades, but Bush got in with family connections and probably a nice donation.

      I believe Jobs got on a list in Tennessee by establishing residency there. Having money allowed him to do it.

      I guess I'll have to say that I have respect for the man, and if money makes you to be able to play the game, that's our system. If you don't like the system, maybe it's the system you think we should change.

      January 17, 2011 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
    • Furutan

      He was on the list for at least a couple of years. To say that he bought his way to the top of the list is a huge insult to the staff at the center and is typical of the cynicism in some quarters these days.

      January 17, 2011 at 23:58 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Not to be crass, but he's worth more than most, in terms of how he benefits society.

      January 18, 2011 at 00:46 | Report abuse |
    • Starry Sky

      Nobody is more valuable than everyone else, in the grand scheme of things, Mike. I would value the life of a child above that of an elderly person, but to say that one individual is more important than everyone else (in general) is wrong.

      January 18, 2011 at 05:37 | Report abuse |
    • Christian

      You don't have to be a resident to get a transplant. I am sure they put him on the transsplant list right after he had cancer. Thats was 5 years of waiting for a transplant. I know people who were able to get a heart trnasplant in a matter of 2 weeks!

      January 18, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse |
    • Blondo

      The guy is a gem, and has created jobs for many people. I think he deserves everything healcare can offer him to keep him alive because he's an outstanding citizen and a good human being.

      January 18, 2011 at 09:45 | Report abuse |
    • RK

      Someone might correct me on this but I dont think he bought his liver. When you are on a transplant list you sign up in the "zone" you live in and when a matching organ becomes avalible in your zone (and you are #1 on the list you) get the organ.

      I heard what Mr Jobs did was to sign up for "all" the zones in the US because he has a private jet that can fly him quicky to anywhere in the US the liver was at.

      January 27, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse |
  5. Jim Bob

    No matter how much fame or fortune, we all will be faced with the certainty of death. From my viewpoint, I hope he is a believer in Christ.

    January 17, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • marny

      you also disgust me.

      January 17, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse |
    • HumblebutCute

      All the $$$$$$$$$ in the world and good health is one thing Steve can't buy.
      But he did change the world. G-D bless Steve and his family.

      January 17, 2011 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
    • Jim8

      Wouldn't it be nice if Christ was real?

      January 17, 2011 at 22:49 | Report abuse |
    • Starry Sky

      Why should it matter to you either way? Non-believers will end up in the safe afterlife as you. Just wait and see!

      January 18, 2011 at 05:38 | Report abuse |
  6. Blondegeisha

    He is a Budhist,so I don't think so Bob

    January 17, 2011 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. killallthewhiteman

    He doesn't have an app for that?

    January 17, 2011 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. odroadjepong

    I lost my mum thru something like this, is a toll pls respect that and stop making fun of it. I once told a friend of mine that we should be scared of cancer done AIDS cos man it can eat you up and I have seen it. Its HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I wish not unto any human being.

    January 17, 2011 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JennyTX

      I am sorry for your loss.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
  9. Perthite

    Regardless of his wealth, which was due to his hard work and innovation, I hope he regains his health and vigour. We all must ultimately report to Boneyard Sam – whether one believes in Christ, Buddha, Zoroaster, animism, ancestor worship, or nothing but the existential moment. Some get there relatively early (such as most people up to a century or so ago), some with pain, some with glory, some with plain old weariness. Nature really *is* tooth and nail, all the way up and down the food chain, animal, vegetable or unclassifiable. Perhaps there is something there for us, or perhaps not (after death, that is). My view is, rely on yourself and have no hope for afterlife, and you may well be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised. Get well, Mr Jobs, you are one in a million!

    January 17, 2011 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mendonite

      Thank you Perthite....I like your style. I too wish him the best. He has made a lot of people wealthy, he has created interesting work for lots of people...and I am sure he has supported many charitable causes throughout the years. I am sure the Pancreatic Cancer Research organizations have benefitted from his donations and friendship. Pancreatic cancer used to be rare...now it seems like we hear of a new case every day...friends, celebrities, academics....I hope they discover a cure and/or good treatments soon. Peace.

      January 18, 2011 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
    • So tell us

      "I am sure he has supported many charitable causes throughout the years." Nobody has heard of them, and he has a reputation for not being philanthropic, but I'm sure he has.

      January 18, 2011 at 00:48 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      The increased rate in cancer isn't really because of the increased lifespan, but because of the vast amount of toxins we injest these days: such as pollution, and the increase of chemicals in our food.

      January 18, 2011 at 00:50 | Report abuse |
    • Heather


      January 18, 2011 at 00:50 | Report abuse |
    • ynot

      fantastic reply

      January 18, 2011 at 02:18 | Report abuse |
  10. Pdikeman

    When I am called home...Y'all can HAVE my liver...it was used well!

    January 17, 2011 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. TX

    Steve, God speed...... You've changed the world, accomplished it with fantastic ethics, morals, and mankind is better for it...
    Hope you can return and teach us more. Heres to your health!

    January 17, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. rebecca

    PNET is primitive neuroectodermal tumor. Pancreatic endocrine cancers are NOT abbreviated this way. Pancreatic endocrine cancer is a catchall phrase for more than one type of cancer that occurs in the pancreas whereas PNET is a single type of cancer. You are providing false information and you should edit the article accordingly.
    More importantly, I hope this is a bump in the road for Mr. Jobs and that he returns to good health quickly!

    January 17, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ben

      Although you are correct, pNET is also an acronym for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. It is commonly used in the literature in this context and therefore used correctly here.

      January 18, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  13. Teri

    Actually, Mr. Jobs was listed at multiple centers which is completely legal. The center where he was transplanted was region 11 which typically has a shorter wait time. Luckily for him he has the resources that allowed him to take his private jet to the center 2000 miles away. Let us not penalize Mr. Jobs for being successful, wealthy and brilliant minded. He has faced such adversity with this illness already. I am sure he would trade his wealth for his health if possible. Prayers and compassion are what he needs-not jealous speculation. God speed Mr. Jobs.

    January 17, 2011 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. mimi

    I wish him all the best, I hope he does recover but I have to say I sold all my shares of stock today.

    January 17, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Furutan

      Better buy them back before the summer.

      January 18, 2011 at 00:02 | Report abuse |
    • JennyTX

      Selling all your Apple stock was a bad idea, sorry.

      January 18, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
  15. William R. Cousert

    Any healthy person can donate a portion of their liver. Both the the donor's liver and the donated slice will grow back into a full liver.

    It's been possible to do this for at LEAST a decade, perhaps much longer.

    Why didn't Steve Jobs ask a close (compatible) relative to be a donor?

    If the donated liver is the problem he could do that today.

    January 17, 2011 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Barb

    As a colon cancer survivor, you are always waiting for the next shoe to drop. Seeing my sister, my 15 year old nephew and my aunt all have their cancer return with a vengence scares me !!! I enjoy each day and pray if the cancer comes back, I go swiftly...God speed Steve...

    January 17, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Teri

    I think Jim needs to be better informed before commenting. You DO NOT need to be a resident in a state in order to be on a transplant iist. Anyone can be listed at as many centers in the country as you wish. Many people do this in order to increase their odds. Organs become available and are offered locally first, then regionally and last-nationally. Unfortunaytely, many people die on transplant waiting lists every day and not because they didn't have enough money....simply too few organs! Organ donation awareness is the only way to close this gap-not fame or money.

    January 17, 2011 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Farduse

      A smartphone is a pcoekt-sized device that provides: 1) Wireless communication (voice, text, data, and perhaps GPS, WiFi, bluetooth) 2) Personal Information Management (calendar, todo, contacts, memos, ) 3) email, web, and perhaps other internet services such as chat 4) synchronization of data with the cloud' and/or a pc 5) extensibility user can install applications from 3rd party developersOr the short version it's the Swiss Army knife of electronic gadgets

      November 16, 2012 at 02:51 | Report abuse |
  18. John

    That's why health is our greatest wealth.

    January 17, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Bobby

    I had a liver transplant 8 months ago. Since I have a rare blood type and since I was in rather bad shape, my wait was only 12 days. Money had nothing to do with it. I'm just an average but blessed guy. And anybody can be blessed.

    January 17, 2011 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. zem

    I am sorry Steve.... you have to be prepared to face what everyone faces at some point in their life. Any person will fall to their knees in front of the one. And you shall too, don't be afraid... surrender. Let the inner guidance direct you from here on forward. Let this transition be an easy one for you. I am telling you this because I too had to face that once in my lifetime. And I guess my time wasn't up yet... so I was blessed. The cosmic one- is the only force running this world. Not wealthy people or the governments. Although they may seem like closer to gods, it's mere illusion. We all know too well what happens when you start playing dangerous games w/ western medicine (what I call the ignorant medicine). Nature- that is the answer. And no matter what- it has unquestionable supremacy over anything. Anyway... I guess you already know all the facts. To all you others- eat organic, take care, drink clean water, love yourself and others around you, excercise.... and you will live happy.

    January 18, 2011 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Frank

    Man life is short. Even the very intelligent and wealthy people cannot escape the troubles of life. I hope Steve Jobs pulls through and lives a full life.

    January 18, 2011 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mae

    it breaks my heart to see him so frail and thin. hope he recovers from this quickly. my thoughts are with him....

    January 18, 2011 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Gigi

    Brilliant guy but he looks mean. Sorry for his troubles but he certainly is not immune to illness. All that money and he cant buy a cure.

    January 18, 2011 at 04:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. George Mubezi

    I admire Steve Job alot, lets not make fun of this.Lets pray that our Almighty heals him very soon.Hope he will be back in office in tome for the launch of the second generation iPad

    January 18, 2011 at 06:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Holy Moses

    Starry Sky...you are incorrect. Jobs is much more valuable than say an Obama, Pelosi, Jesse Jackson, "useless" Lowery, Jimmy Carter etc.

    January 18, 2011 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. toni birdsong

    Thank you for the update. Praying for this gifted, sweet man. His contribution and tenacity models for all of us sticking with it through all obstacles for the greater good. May God honor his passion and may God heal his body. Praying for Steve Jobs in a global torrent of sincerity is a powerful "thank you" at this juncture. Hope others will join me.

    January 18, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. See ya Steve

    Steve is no more important than anyone else, and let's be clear he has not improved society at all. He has filled our lives with little gadgets that has helped move our society into the self-centered mess that it's in know. Everyone has their iPod going with their earpuds in and nobody talks to each other anymore. Thanks Steve, perhaps some will miss you

    January 18, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. stevie68a

    I wish him the very best. He has been using his fame to encourage organ donation. He is an exceptional person, who also has
    fabulous wealth, so yes, he should be treated differently. He will probably save thousands of lives with organ donation alone.
    I would guess his will, likely has a huge amount of money to be donated to medical research. Don't compare him to the average

    January 18, 2011 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angela

      It is to bad he wasn't more open with his PC that is very rare and little if any research is done. If the Medical Profession knew more about NET the cancer could be prevented from metastasising to the liver or other organs and there would be less need for an organ donations. He said he got surgery for his PC was that surgery called the Whipple Procedure? What is all the secrecy about.

      January 18, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
  29. Get the Shovels

    I have no remorse for him, for he is a wicked man

    January 18, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. jack

    Even the filthy rich cant hide from the Reaper when its time, its time. That being said if anyone on the planet has the resources to fight whatever battle it is, it would be him. Perhaps others will survive later with whatever money and resources he is putting into this issue.

    January 18, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. KV

    Good Luck Mr. Jobs.

    You are an amazing mind and one of the best (if not the best) CEOs that the free world ever produced.

    Keep fighting. We still need you and looking forward to more innovative solutions from you and Apple.

    January 18, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
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  33. SS

    Yes, I too am a liver reciepent, the transplant was performed at the same hospital as Mr. Jobs'. The staff was the most
    caring , understanding and professionally group of doctors and nurses. The doctos and nurses made me feel like I was the
    most important patient in the hospital. I'm not a wealthy person, just a person trying to live from day to day. But, GOD has been very good to me and he put the right people in my life to do HIS operation and for that I thank to HIM and I will always give HIM the praise and honor. So, Mr. Jobs, hold your head up high and look to the one who allowed you to be the person that you are and the things that you have accomplished in life will eventually help others. I pray for your family, your health and recovery and that you and I will keep our hands in GOD'S HANDS AND HE WILL HELP US THROUGH THIS RECOVERY.
    May GOD bless and keep you.

    January 18, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    November 16, 2012 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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