Every year, more than 10 thousand people in the UK to Pancreatic cancer Unfortunately, in most of these people, the disease is diagnosed so late that it cannot be treated. Less than 10 percent of people will be alive for only five years after diagnosis. Now scientists have provided a way to detect this cancer early by carefully examining the symptoms of this cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is a silent disease, meaning that for many people, it has no symptoms until it is relatively advanced. Weight loss and increased blood glucose levels are among the well-known symptoms of this disease, but when and to what extent these changes occur is still unknown. If we can better understand how and when these changes occur before pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, we can use this knowledge to detect the disease early, potentially saving many lives.
A detailed examination of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Surrey in England and the University of Oxford looked at the well-known symptoms of this cancer – weight loss, high blood sugar and diabetes – and when they appeared. To conduct this research, scientists compared the body mass index (for weight loss) and HbA1c (for blood sugar) of nearly 9,000 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with a group of 35,000 people who did not have the disease.
Scientists found that significant weight loss in people with cancer began as early as two years before diagnosis.
At the time of diagnosis, the average body mass index (BMI) of people with cancer was almost three units lower than that of people without cancer. Elevated glucose levels were also detected even earlier (from three years before diagnosis).
Scientists’ analysis shows that weight loss in people with diabetes is associated with a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than in people without diabetes. Also, the increase in blood glucose level in people without diabetes has been associated with the highest risk compared to people with diabetes.
The results of this research show that mostly (but not absolutely) in people with diabetes, unexplained weight loss can be considered a dangerous sign. Also, elevated glucose levels, especially in people without weight gain, can be a potential warning sign for pancreatic cancer.
These changes are important candidates for health screening that, if done regularly, can help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer. An important advantage of early detection is that it reduces the chance of cancer spreading.
In the future, scientists plan to develop a more sophisticated tool (algorithm) based on this information that doctors can use.