Dustin Diamond—best known for playing Samuel "Screech" Powers on the popular 1990s sitcom Saved by the Bell—has died at age 44, only a couple of weeks after completing his first round of chemo for stage 4 small cell carcinoma, a type of small cell lung cancer.
After being diagnosed with cancer last month, Diamond's health had deteriorated over the last week, revealed TMZ. He was taken off a ventilator to try to get him to a hospice, and his father was with him when he died.
On January 14, Diamond's rep, Roger Paul, confirmed the actor's cancer diagnosis to NBC News. The same day, his team shared a statement on Diamond's Facebook page, saying, "We ask everyone to respect Dustin's privacy during this difficult time. All positivity and prayers are appreciated."
According to the National Cancer Institute, stage 4 cancer means the cancer has spread from where it first formed to distant parts of the body, such as from the lungs to the bones, brain, and liver. This is known as metastasis. The new tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor—for instance, if lung cancer spreads to the brain, the cancer cells in the brain are lung cancer cells, not brain cancer cells. TMZ reported that Diamond's cancer was "throughout his body."
MedlinePlus says almost all cases of small cell lung cancer are a result of smoking, and only very rarely diagnosed in someone who has never smoked. "If we see it in a non-smoker, we ask 'are you sure?' and recheck the pathology reports," Gregory Kalemberian, MD, clinical professor of medicine in hematology/oncology at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, previously told Health. A person has a higher risk of small cell lung cancer the more "pack years" they have from smoking (i.e. the number of packs smoked per day per year).
Unfortunately, Diamond was one of the rare cases—he had never smoked. His rep told TMZ on January 23 that this was making it difficult for the actor to come to terms with having small cell lung cancer. However, he did have a history of cancer in his family—his mother died of breast cancer.
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Symptoms of lung cancer may include chest pain, a persistent cough, coughing up blood, fatigue, shortness of breath, and hoarseness, Health previously reported. However, early lung cancer may not cause any symptoms. Treatment for small cell lung cancer typically includes chemotherapy and radiation to help lessen symptoms and prolong the patient's life. The prognosis depends on how much the cancer has spread at the time of diagnosis, as well as the patient's age, sex, and general health.
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