Steve Jobs' decision to take a medical leave from Apple Inc. was probably triggered either by an infection, a rejection episode related to his recent liver transplant or, most likely, a recurrence of his pancreatic cancer, experts said Monday.
But all cautioned that these are just educated guesses because so few details about his medical condition have been made public. "If we don't know more, it is all speculation," said Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, a gastrointestinal oncologist at USC's Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. "But we worry the tumor is back."
Jobs' cancer, diagnosed in 2003, is known as an islet cell, or neuroendocrine, tumor. That is a much rarer form of pancreatic tumor than the type suffered by actor Patrick Swayze, who died in 2009, but also a much more survivable form.
If caught early, it is usually treated successfully by surgical removal of the tumor. However, the cancer frequently spreads to the liver, and Jobs' apparently did so without being initially detected. When doctors finally identified it there, "there must have been too many tumors within the liver" to permit surgical removal, said Dr. Gagandeep Singh, chief of hepatobiliary surgery at City of Hope in Duarte.