Click photo to enlarge
Postada del ibro "Steve Jobs", de Walter Isaacson, proporcionada por la editorial Simon & Schuster. (Foto AP/Simon & Schuster)

In a "60 Minutes" segment scheduled to run this Sunday evening, Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson says the former Apple (AAPL) CEO refused to allow surgeons to perform what could have been life-saving surgery on his pancreatic cancer. In what Isaacson described as one of the most personal discussions he had with his subject, the author says Jobs told him he later regretted his decision to try alternative therapies and said he put off the operation because it was too invasive.

"I've asked [Jobs why he didn't get an operation then] and he said, 'I didn't want my body to be opened . . . I didn't want to be violated in that way,"' Isaacson tells Steve Kroft, according to a statement from "60 Minutes."

So instead, Jobs waited nine months, while his wife and others urged him to get the surgery done, before finally having the operation, according to Isaacson. When Kroft asked how such a smart and informed man could make such a seemingly ill-advised decision, Isaacson replies, "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," he tells Kroft in the show on the eve of when Isaacson's long-awaited book, "Steve Jobs," is formally released. "He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it ... I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner."

He finally had the surgery and told his employees about it, but played down the seriousness of his condition. Isaacson says he was receiving cancer treatments in secret even though he was telling everyone he was cured.

The story of Jobs' fateful decision to try alternative cures has been swirling throughout the blogosphere in recent weeks, following a widely distributed Newsweek article by the magazine's science columnist and science editor Sharon Begley.

"Steve Jobs was right to be optimistic when, in 2004, he announced that he had cancer in his pancreas," Begley wrote. "Although cancer of the pancreas has a terrible prognosis -- half of all patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer die within 10 months of the diagnosis; half of those in whom it has metastasized die within six months -- cancer in the pancreas is not necessarily a death sentence."

Begley quotes several cancer specialists who say Jobs might have had a good chance of living much longer than he did had he taken a more aggressive course upon learning about his illness. She explains in the article that there are different kinds of pancreatic cancer, and that while some doom a patient to a quick death, others are clearly more treatable.

"Jobs learned in 2003 that he had an extremely rare form of this cancer, an islet-cell neuroendocrine tumor," she wrote. "As the name implies, it arises from islet cells, the specialized factories within the pancreas that produce and secrete insulin, which cells need in order to take in glucose from the food we eat. Unlike pancreatic cancer, with neuroendocrine cancer 'if you catch it early, there is a real potential for cure,' says cancer surgeon Joseph Kim of City of Hope, a comprehensive cancer center in Duarte, Calif.'"

Dr. Kim told this newspaper Thursday that while it's not uncommon for a newly diagnosed cancer patient to want to try alternative cures before proceeding with more proven and often drastic ones, such as surgery or radiation, it's reasonable to assume that Jobs' survival chances would have been greatly improved had he just hit his cancer hard from the get-go. And, Kim added, it was surprising that Jobs, of all people, decided on the course he did.

"You'd expect the CEO of Apple to be more informed," said Dr. Kim. "Someone with a scientific mind like he had would be expected to be driven by evidence. And the evidence is clear with this type of cancer that surgery would improve his survival chances."

Kim said Jobs' inititial decision could have been prompted by the same fears and anxieties many cancer patients are gripped by upon learning their diagnosis.

"Often times," Kim said, "people come in and they're resolved to try alternative theories. And it's unfortunate when these theories fail and then they come back and then there's a desperation to try anything to get the cancer under control. But often it's too late.

"There's a chance,'' said Dr. Kim, "that Steve Jobs would still be alive today if he had had surgery right away."

Contact Patrick May at (408) 920-5689 or follow him at patmaymerc on Twitter.