Pancreatic cancer may not have definitive symptoms until survival is severely compromised. Prevention and early detection are needed.
In this study, investigators from California, USA, collected data on signs and symptoms of disease reported by patients with pancreatic cancer. They compared these data with data from 180 matched controls.
A symptoms questionnaire was given to 120 consecutive patients with pancreatic cancer. These patients were part of a larger population-based case-control study conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1994 and 2001.
The team found that most signs and symptoms occurred within 3 years before diagnosis.
|Most signs and symptoms occurred within 3 years before diagnosis.|
|Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology|
Many symptoms were more likely to be reported by patients than controls.
These included appetite loss (OR 41), pale stools (OR 31), abdominal pain (OR 30), jaundice (OR 20), unusual bloating (OR 20), unusual belching (OR 17), weight loss (OR 12), dark urine (OR 10), constipation (OR 7.3), diarrhea (OR 5.6), itching (OR 5), fatigue (OR 3.8), altered ability to sleep (OR 2.9), and unusual heartburn (OR 2.3).
Dr Elizabeth Holly and colleagues concluded, "Our results show that signs and symptoms likely to be indicators of pancreatic cancer occur substantially more often among patients with pancreatic cancer than among population-based controls".
"The large magnitude of the risk estimates indicate that common gastrointestinal symptoms may assist clinicians in earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and perhaps affect survival".