Maria Menounos predicted there was something wrong with her pancreas during an episode of her podcast months before her pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
The 45-year-old television personality was diagnosed with a rare type of pancreatic cancer, a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, in January 2023 and had it removed the following month.
After she went public with her cancer journey, “I had a viewer reach out to me and say, you predicted this last April (2022) on your show. I went back … and I did,” Menounos told TODAY co-anchor Hoda Kotb during a new episode of Hoda’s podcast, “Making Space.”
Season 4 of “Making Space” launches Nov. 15 with episodes featuring Menounos and “The Office” star Rainn Wilson.
Leading up to her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Menounos said she had sensed something was wrong for many months and discussed it on her own podcast, “Heal Squad.”
“For at least a year and a half or so, I looked like I swallowed a basketball,” she recalled to Hoda. “I’ve been on fitness covers my whole career, flat washboard abs. Never had that. What’s going on?”
Menounos said she was tested for celiac disease but got no answers.
“In March 2022, I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy, trying to get to the root of what’s happening. … (They) didn’t find the source. That was it,” said Menounos. “I go, wait guys, the investigation doesn’t stop. We’re still trying to figure out what’s happening.”
“I kept taking pictures of (my bloating) because I was trying to eliminate things from (my) diet to see if there was a difference,” she continued. “I said, something’s wrong, and I’m going to keep investigating until I find it.”
The next month, April 2022, the “Heal Squad” episode that the viewer pointed out aired. It was focused on how to better tune into your body, and Menounos shared with listeners that she was struck by the idea that her pancreas was the source of the problem.
“(I said), ‘I think something’s wrong with my pancreas,” which was followed by “a whole discussion about the pancreas,” she told Hoda about the episode. “So random. And that was two months before I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.”
Menounos said she was in disbelief when she learned she had diabetes in June 2022. “First thing I (said) is, ‘I don’t have this.’ … At 43 years old or whatever … there’s no reason for me to get Type 1 diabetes.” (Research shows new onset of diabetes, especially in patients over 50, can be a sign of pancreatic cancer.)
In the fall of 2022, Menounos’ symptoms worsened significantly.
“I started having these weird abdominal pains that were super strong. I was on a plane and I thought I was going to die,” she told Hoda, adding that she chalked it up to a gluten sensitivity from a farro salad she was eating at the time.
In November of 2022, the excruciating abdominal pains came back, this time coupled with diarrhea, which lasted for a month, Menounos previously told TODAY.com. “I can’t lay down, I can’t sit up — I go to the hospital and they do a CT scan,” she said.
In addition to a CT scan, Menounos got stool and blood tests, all of which had “unremarkable” results. “They said everything’s fine,” but the abdominal pain persisted, said Menounos.
Finally, in December 2022, Menounos got a full-body MRI, which revealed a mass on her pancreas. A biopsy confirmed it was a stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor — a rare and less aggressive type of pancreatic cancer.
Menounos said she thought she was a “goner” upon hearing her diagnosis, but that she was successfully treated with surgery. In addition to the tumor, doctors removed part of her pancreas, her spleen, a fibroid and 17 lymph nodes.
The new mom told Hoda that she is officially cancer-free. In June, Menounos and husband Keven Undergaro welcomed their first child together via surrogate, a baby girl named Athena.
Symptoms of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor
The symptoms of Menounos’ type of cancer vary depending on the type of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor and the hormones it produces, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Signs may include:
- Acid reflux
- Burning abdominal pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc.)
- Jaundice or a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
The most common type of pancreatic cancer, adenocarcinoma, usually doesn’t have symptoms in early stages, but they may include also abdominal pain and jaundice, back pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, dark urine, light-colored stools, and itchy skin, per the National Cancer Institute.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month — to help spread awareness, Menounos teamed up with PanCAN to star in a public service announcement about the importance of early detection.
“I really encourage anybody who’s having any consistent pain or symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, gas or constipation to look deeper,” Menounos previously told TODAY.com. “A lot of people just want to shush their bodies and go back to work and go back to life and pretend it’s not happening. I’ve been there.”
Menounos wants others to listen to their bodies and advocate for their health, too. “I have learned that we have to be the CEO of our health. We have to use our own internal guidance, we have to do our own homework, we have to push,” she told Hoda.
“You can’t just listen to somebody else tell you what’s happening in your body,” she added. “If the pain persists … you have to keep fighting.”