Jobs’ letter too vague for meaningful reporting

Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed on Monday that he has a “hormone imbalance” that has caused his weight loss, something Apple followers have been discussing for some time. Jobs did not identify what caused the imbalance or give any further information about his diagnosis. He did say he is being treated and that the “remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward.” Jobs had surgery in the past to treat a an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor in the pancreas.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2007. Photo by acaben via Flickr.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2007. Photo by acaben via Flickr.

Despite the dearth of information about Jobs’ condition, a number of news reports have speculated about the diagnosis, what could have caused it and more.

The Los Angeles Times spoke to medical experts who did not have access to Jobs’ health records. They said “a hormone imbalance in a pancreatic cancer survivor raises red flags about a possible recurrence.” They also theorized that his earlier surgery could have “left Jobs with a pancreas too small to produce the necessary enzymes.”

U.S. News & World Report quotes a neuroendocrinologist who says “the key elements in his statement … do not clearly point to a single diagnosis.” The medical experts in the article say his statement could refer to an endocrine disorder, that his condition could be an aftereffect of his pancreatic surgery or that it could be a new tumor.

The New York Times focuses mostly on the announcement’s effect on Apple’s stock price and future, though it does include speculation from a doctor who has no personal knowledge of Jobs’ medical history who also posits that his condition could be related to the pancreatic cancer surgery.

Bloomberg offers some details about the specific kind of pancreatic tumor Jobs had. It also says that, according to a doctor, the usual treatment is a Whipple procedure that “can lead to a digestive condition known as dumping syndrome, which causes people to lose weight.”

Scientific American talked to medical experts who agree that Jobs’ description of his condition is too vague to lead to a diagnosis. One professor did point out that it suggests a problem with the endocrine system but that “endocrine disorders are not generally considered to be ‘nutritional problems.'”

Similarly, Wired quotes several doctors who conclude Jobs has not released enough information for anyone to diagnose the problem. One doctor refused to comment and another said “armchair diagnoses” are not reasonable or productive.

In The Wall Street Journal, Clay Semenkovich, an endocrinologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who isn’t involved in Jobs’s treatment, said, “To an endocrinologist, the most vague statement you can ever make is the term ‘hormone imbalance.'”

Leave a Reply