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Thursday, January 15, 2009, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Steve Jobs may be facing surgery to remove pancreas - report

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs could be facing new surgery to remove the rest of his pancreas, according to Bloomberg, which cites doctors familiar with patients in similar positions.

In 2004, the Apple co-founder was diagnosed with a very rare form of pancreatic cancer called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which represents about 1% of the total cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed each year.

The disease is curable by surgical removal if properly diagnosed from the onset. As part of the operation, which is similar to a Whipple operation, doctors removed parts of Jobs' pancreas, bile duct and small intestine, according to Bloomberg.

One potential side effect of the procedure 'is that the organ has to be removed to prevent pancreatic leak, and the patient has to be kept alive with insulin to regulate blood sugar,' Robert Thomas, head of surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, told the financial publication.

"You might have to take the rest of the pancreas out," added Thomas, who's performed his share of Whipple procedures. "You’re on significant doses of insulin, and it’s not easy to manage. The person has the risk of severe diabetes."

If true, it would be Jobs' third surgical procedure since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four and a half years ago. In addition to the initial surgery to remove the malignant tumor, it was revealed last summer that he underwent a second surgical procedure earlier in the year to address an issue that was contributing to his weight loss.

In an email to Apple employees Wednesday, Jobs said he learned over the past week that his health-related issues were more complex than his doctors originally thought. The revelation came just nine days after he issued a statement saying that doctors had diagnosed him with a hormone imbalance that had been “robbing” him of proteins, but that the remedy for the nutritional problem was "relatively simple and straightforward."

Joe Grundfest, a professor of capital markets, corporate governance and securities litigation at Stanford University, attributed the lack of transparency regarding Jobs' health issues to his "unusual and complicated" condition.

"When conditions are complicated, physicians have difficulty making clear decisions," he told Bloomberg.