Rest in peace. Dustin Diamond, known for his role as Screech in Saved by the Bell, died on Monday, February 1, after battling stage IV small cell carcinoma. He was 44.
TMZ reports a source close to the actor told them Diamond died Monday morning after his “condition had greatly declined since last week.”
Dr. Bilal Khalid, a SLUCare thoracic oncologist at SSM Health SLU Hospital, says this type of cancer is very insidious and spreads quickly.
He also said he’s never seen a patient under the age of 50.
Dr. Khalid says this type of cancer is usually seen in people who are significant smokers.
While it’s not clear if Diamond smoked in the past, Dr. Kahlid said second-hand smoking and some other types of exposure can also lead to small cell carcinoma.
He also explained that small cell carcinoma is more aggressive than other cancers. He said it grows quickly and is hard to catch.
He also said you don’t get dramatic symptoms as you see with other cancers. He explained that is because there is so much room in the lungs that it takes a while for the pain to be severe.
Dr. Kahlid says the first symptom people with small cell carcinoma see is blood while coughing. He says weight loss, chest pains, and shortness of breath can be other symptoms.
“Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful,” the actor’s spokesman, Roger Paul, said in a statement.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued recommendations for lung cancer screenings. The recommendations say adults between 55 and 80 years old who are at high risk for lung cancer should be screened yearly.
The task force considers high risk people who are heavy smokers or have quit within the past 15 years.
Dr. Kahlid also is encouraging people who are smokers to look into a smoking cessation program.