Warning: Do not ever assume that just because your troublesome digestive symptoms come and go, that they can’t possibly mean pancreatic cancer.

“Generally, when someone has symptoms of pancreatic cancer, they tend to get progressively worse over time,” says Nadeem Baig, MD, a board certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Monmouth Gastroenterology, a division of Allied Digestive Health.

“During that period, it is very possible that some symptoms like stomach pain, back pain and loss of appetite can come and go on a day-to-day basis.

“Other symptoms like weight loss and jaundice tend to be more constant once they are present.”

An Interview with Pancreatic Cancer Patients

In a study Dr. Julie Evans and colleagues interviewed 40 people (age 35-84) who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The genders were about 50/50.

The report is titled “It can’t be very important because it comes and goes.”

Frightening Findings

Dr. Evans and her team found that symptoms that appeared and then went away, then came back, and so on, were not uncommon in the patients.

This come and go nature of symptoms occurred in the months, and even years, prior to diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

The patients reported that the symptoms that did not persist, that instead came and went, did not alarm them enough to consider cancer as a possible cause.

What made the patients finally seek medical attention?

• Time passage revealed a symptom pattern.

• Frequency of symptoms increased.

• Symptom nature changed.

• New symptom appearance.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms Can Be Intermittent

The paper states, “Our study reports for the first time that symptoms of an intermittent nature may precede a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Patients (and potentially their doctors) may be falsely reassured by symptoms that come and go.”

The study authors urge greater awareness that intermittent symptoms can be caused by cancer.

A greater awareness can lead to an earlier diagnosis when the disease is more treatable, even curable.

The full report is in the British Medical Journal Open 2014.

Dr. Baig’s specialties include gastrointestinal cancers and liver disease, plus gallbladder, biliary tract and pancreatic disorders. He is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Source: bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/2/e004215.short