What Cancer Does Dustin Have?
Dustin Diamond, best known for portraying the nerdy character Screech on “Saved By the Bell,” passed away on Monday at the age of 44. Diamond passed away just weeks after being diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, a form of cancer that typically affects the lungs but can also arise from the prostate or the gastrointestinal tract.
After his death, the actor’s management team released a statement stating, “During that time, it managed to rapidly spread throughout his system; the only mercy it displayed was a swift and lethal end.” “Dustin did not suffer. He was not required to lie in agony. We appreciate this very much.”
Erin Schenk, MD, PhD, a member of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, states that small cell carcinoma — rare cancer that often spreads aggressively and has no associated screening procedure — is a reminder of how much work remains for medical professionals in the fight against cancer.
Schenk, who is also an assistant professor in the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, explains that even in the year 2021, untimely deaths due to cancer are still a possibility, even when patients bring their concerns to the attention of their physicians and their physicians conduct all the appropriate tests and initiate the appropriate treatment.
Schenk explains that Diamond was hospitalized on January 12 after experiencing severe pain throughout his body, an indication that cancer had metastasized or spread from its original location.
Covid-19 Causing Deadly Delays
It is unknown whether Diamond experienced pain prior to mid-January; however, according to Schenk, it is possible that he experienced less severe, more localized pain that could have been investigated sooner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she notes, it is not uncommon for patients to delay treatment and screenings out of fear of infection during clinic visits.
“We’re beginning to understand how the COVID pandemic has affected not only our current cancer patients but also those who are being diagnosed with cancer,” she says. “According to a number of international studies, patients are presenting to our offices with more advanced disease than they did before COVID.
Delaying routine health screenings will have a significant impact in the coming years on the number of patients diagnosed with advanced cancer and other chronic, controllable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. This will set back the world’s health considerably.”
Schenk urges anyone with unexplained, persistent symptoms, such as pain, to see a doctor as soon as possible and emphasizes that telehealth visits and local blood testing and imaging facilities can alleviate concerns about seeking treatment at a hospital or clinic.
She states, “There is a great deal more flexibility now.” You are not required to visit your academic medical center and obtain all services there.
Although there is no screening for the small cell carcinoma that killed Diamond, Schenk explains that certain subtypes of this cancer can run in families; therefore, it is essential to have conversations with family members who have been diagnosed with cancer about the type of cancer they had and the age at which they were diagnosed.
“Especially if they were under 50 years old, this is frequently a sign that we may need to do some extra evaluation,” Schenk says. “We may need to delve deeper into the patient’s and family’s DNA to determine if they have cancer predispositions.”
In the end, according to Schenk, Diamond’s death was caused by a rare combination of events surrounding a rare form of cancer, and there is still much for doctors to learn about such situations.
“This is extremely difficult. “Unfortunately, this is an uncommon occurrence that occasionally occurs in young individuals; he simply did not live very long,” she explains. This is the most severe of extremes, but it is still upsetting to the family, friends, and loved ones.