HEALTH AND SCIENCE

Early pancreatic cancer able to be detected via stool test

Pancreatic cancer treatment options are limited, leading to low survival rates.

In Summary

• Detectable changes involving microbes in the gut could provide a warning that a tumour is present.

• Pancreatic cancer treatment options are limited, leading to low survival rates.

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Image: File

CT scans are often used to diagnose patients with pancreatic cancer. However, since there is no early detection for the disease, patients are often diagnosed once they have reached a late stage of treatment.

Here, treatment options are limited, leading to low survival rates.

A group of researchers have however found that, the key to detecting cancer early might be in the patient’s stool.

Their study, published in the journal Gut, suggests detectable changes involving microbes in the gut could provide a warning that a tumour is present.

Since there are no detectable symptoms on the early stages, as the cancer advances, the patient has a constant pain in the right side of the upper belly that radiates to the back area.

Other symptoms include diarrhoea, oily stools, fever, nausea and vomiting, bloating and excessive weight loss.

"This is a first step towards stool-based [pancreatic cancer] screening, but more steps and validation are required to develop this into a robust screening or diagnostic method," study author and lead researcher Ece Kartal cautioned.

The research team tested a group of 76 Germans, including 44 with pancreatic cancer and 32 who did not have the disease.

They also tested it against publicly available data from 25 studies involving nearly 5,800 samples.

In both instances, the results validated the microbial panel as a potentially accurate way to detect pancreatic cancer.

“After a successful development of the stool test, we will conduct to see whether there is need to combine with other measures to create a powerful enough tool to detect pancreatic cancer,” Christian Jobin, a co-author said.

"Although promising, these findings have limited clinical value due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, and thus the predictive markers will need to be tested using a prospective cohort before reaching a conclusion on their clinical impact," they cautioned.

There is need to factor in age, obesity, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, smoking, high alcohol consumption, blood type, and family history of cancer.

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