On Thursday morning, Aretha Franklin's publicist confirmed that the "Queen of Soul" died in her Detroit home at the age of 76. Her cause of death was pancreatic cancer, the Associated Press reports.
"In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart," Franklin's family said in a separate statement provided to the AP. "We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds."
The Franklin family's statement continued, "We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters, and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha, and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."
Pancreatic cancer often spreads quickly, the Mayo Clinic explains, and usually doesn't come with symptoms until it's advanced.
Normally, the pancreas is heavily involved in digestive processes, particularly with the secretion of insulin, a hormone that helps the body break down and store sugar. So when symptoms do appear, they may include upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back as well as a loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, or the new development of diabetes.
The exact cause of pancreatic cancer isn't well understood, but we know that genetics, age, a history of diabetes, and a history of chronic pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis) can increase your risk for the disease. It's estimated that there will be about 55,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in the U.S. this year—and approximately 44,000 deaths due to the condition.
Immediately after the news broke, countless admirers took to social media to pay their respects to the singer and 18-time Grammy winner.
"I'm sitting in prayer for the wonderful golden spirit Aretha Franklin," Diana Ross wrote. And Barbara Streisand posted a photo of herself and Franklin in 2012 captioned, "It's difficult to conceive of a world without her. Not only was she a uniquely brilliant singer, but her commitment to civil rights made an indelible impact on the world."