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New test may help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer sooner

Oregon residents who have or know someone with pancreatic cancer are probably aware of how serious this disease can be. Around 40,000 Americans will die from it in 2015, out of the nearly 50,000 who will be diagnosed with it this year. Patients have better luck if they are diagnosed as soon as possible, but about 80 percent of people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed at later stages. A new study explores the option for a low-cost test that can diagnose the disease in its early stages.

A biomarker found in a patient's urine could detect pancreatic cancer in a noninvasive way, according to the study published in the scholarly journal Clinical Cancer Research. When studying the urine samples of healthy individuals and those with pancreatic cancer, chronic pancreatitis and other conditions related to the liver and gall bladder, researchers found that the amount of three proteins were much higher in those with pancreatic cancer. After forming a panel with the three proteins, the researchers were able to diagnose those in the early stages of pancreatic cancer with greater than 90 percent accuracy.

Diagnosing pancreatic cancer in its early stages has proved difficult for physicians, as symptoms are not usually present in the beginning. Pancreatic cancer might also be misdiagnosed as chronic pancreatitis, as both have similar symptoms like weight loss, digestive problems and back or belly pain.

While physicians sometimes have limitations in their abilities to diagnose patients, preventable errors sometimes occur that can lead to new injuries or a worsened condition. In the event of a misdiagnosis , a physician could be liable for damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit if it is determined to be a failure to exhibit the requisite standard of care. Patients in this type of a situation may want to obtain the advice and counsel of an attorney who has experience in this type of litigation.

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