A NEW quick and easy test could detect your risk of a deadly cancer, scientists have discovered.
Around 10,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, and signs of the illness can be hard to spot.
But researchers have now claimed that a simple stool sample could detect the cancer early – leading to prompt treatment.
The main symptoms of pancreatic cancer include back pain, indigestion, change in bowel habits and tummy pain.
However symptoms don't always show at the start of the illness and may only become visible at a later stage of the cancer.
Around one in 20 people with the most common form of pancreatic cancer – ductal adenocarcinoma – will survive for five years or more.
Experts looked at stool samples of 136 patients from two hospitals in Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.
Of the 136 patients, 25 had early stage cancer and 32 advanced, with 50 without cancer acting as controls, and 29 patients with chronic pancreatitis, where the pancreas has become permanently damaged by inflammation.
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They suggested that detectable changes involving gut bugs could provide a warning sign that a tumour is present.
Writing in the journal Gut, the experts said that they collected spit and stool samples from two groups of patients.
One group had pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, while the other were selected as control patients for comparison.
The saliva drew a blank with no visible signs of cancer in both groups of patients.
But surprisingly the stool samples showed a difference in the pattern of gut bacteria, fungi and other microbes.
They added that the samples may be relevant beyond their use for diagnosis, providing promising future entry points for disease prevention and therapeutic intervention.
The pancreatic cancer signs you need to know
Pancreatic Cancer UK recommends that anyone experiencing one or more of the most common symptoms, for more that four weeks, should contact their GP
Most common symptoms:
– back pain
– change in bowel habits
– tummy pain
– unexplained weight-loss
Anyone with jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin) should immediately go to A&E.
Find out more at: www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk
From the samples, the experts were consistently able to identify the patients who had pancreatic cancer.
They were able to detect the cancer at any stage.
This suggests that microbiome signatures show the cancer emerges early on and that taking stool samples could detected this.
Stool samples to detect pancreatic cancer are also being trialled in Japan, with researchers in Germany also validating the Spanish paper.
Dr Chris MacDonald, head of research at Pancreatic Cancer UK said there is potential in this area of research.
He said: “New, more accurate biomarkers for the detection of pancreatic cancer are urgently needed and it’s vital that we leave no stone unturned.
“We know the microbiome – the collection of fungi, bacteria and viruses that live inside our bodies or on our skin – and its interaction with our immune system is integral to our health.
“But we’re only now scratching the surface in understanding how this symbiotic relationship works in both health and disease, which is why innovative early-stage research like this is so important.
“Back pain, indigestion, weight loss, changes to poo are all common symptoms in pancreatic cancer and of much less serious health conditions"
He added thatthis is a key factor in why 80 per cent of people with pancreatic cancer are currently diagnosed at an advanced stage.
“We desperately need an early detection tool capable of helping GPs diagnose thousands more people at early symptomatic stage in time for lifesaving treatment", he said.
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