Steve Jobs Regretted Delaying Cancer Surgery 9 Months, Biographer Says

Biographer tells CBS News Jobs didn't want body opened; later admitted regret.

ByABC News
October 20, 2011, 3:47 PM

Oct. 20, 2011 — -- Steve Jobs, the visionary Apple co-founder who died earlier this month at 56, admitted to biographer Walter Isaacson that for nine months he refused to undergo surgery for his pancreatic cancer -- a decision he later regretted as his health declined.

In advance of the Monday release of his book, "Steve Jobs: A Biography," Isaacson told the CBS News program "60 Minutes" that Jobs said he initially felt the surgery would be too invasive.

"I've asked [Jobs why he didn't get an operation earlier] and he said, 'I didn't want my body to be opened...I didn't want to be violated in that way,'" Isaacson says in an interview excerpt posted today on the CBS News website.

How could Jobs have made such a decision?

"I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don't want something to exist, you can have magical thinking...we talked about this a lot," Isaacson told CBS News. "He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it....I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner."

Jobs, fascinated by Eastern mysticism in his youth, believed in alternative herbal treatments, and sources have told ABC News in the past that they thought he minimized the seriousness of his condition. One source close to Jobs said he kept his medical problems private, even from members of Apple's board of directors -- who finally had to persuade him his health was of critical importance to Apple's success and the value of its stock to shareholders.

Ramzi Amri, a researcher in surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School, wrote a controversial piece last week about Jobs' aversion to mainstream medicine, and argued that Jobs may have hastened his own death.

"I respect the privacy of, and in no way wish to offend, anyone mourning his passing," he wrote. But Jobs had a rare neuroendocrine tumor that was far easier for Western medicine to treat than "ordinary" pancreatic cancer, said Amri. He instead sought alternative treatments.

"This was, of course, a freedom he had all the rights to take," said Amri, "but given the circumstances it seems sound to assume that Mr. Jobs' choice for alternative medicine could have led to an unnecessarily early death."