Researchers have identified a series of symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer, including two previously unrecognised symptoms – feeling thirsty and having dark urine – in a study presented Monday 8th NOvember at the NCRI (National Cancer Research Institute) Festival.
The study has confirmed a further 21 signs of pancreatic cancer and shown that patients often have some symptoms of the disease up to a year before their cancers are diagnosed, and other alarming symptoms three months before diagnosis.
The researchers hope their findings could improve survival by helping GPs diagnose the disease earlier, especially when patients present with several seemingly non-specific symptoms.
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival among all common cancers, with five-year survival around 7% in the UK. Unfortunately, most people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed at a late stage.
Researchers want to better understand the early signs of pancreatic cancer because if patients and GPs are more aware of symptoms, they could be diagnosed earlier when their chance of survival is better.
The research was presented by Dr Weiqi Liao, a data scientist at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, UK. He and his colleagues looked at data from 24,236 patients who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in England between 2000 and 2017 using a large electronic database (QResearch). The researchers looked at patients’ symptoms at different time points before they were diagnosed with cancer and compared them to other patients’ symptoms who were not diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.