Q. I am totally confused about floating poop. I had always heard that it was due to a high-fiber diet and not a cause for concern. Then I read in your column that it could be an early warning symptom of pancreatic cancer. Now every time I have floaters in the toilet I wonder if I should worry.
A. Floating poop is a never-ending source of comments on our Web site. People seem fascinated with this topic.
Doctors have been arguing for years about why stool sometimes floats. One school of thought attributes this to gas. Other experts maintain that a high-fiber diet leads to floaters.
In most cases floating stools are not worrisome. There are, however, some situations that require medical investigation. People with celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten in wheat, barley and rye), cystic fibrosis or short bowel syndrome may produce stools that float.
Pancreatic cancer is a rare but deadly cancer. Randy Pausch filmed his “Last Lecture” and mentioned floating poop as one of his symptoms. Not surprisingly, this scared a lot of people. Most have nothing to worry about. If, however, the floaters are pale, bulky and greasy and accompanied by abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice or generalized itching, a person should seek medical care promptly. In fact, any major significant change in bowel habits calls for a check-up to rule out a serious problem.

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  1. Sharon
    Reply

    For about 2 plus weeks, I have noticed quick transit time from eating to excreting. The stools have been greasy and floating(not pale in color),
    but the hunger I feel so much of the day tells me I am not absorbing my nutrients. also, I worry as to whether this is my liver and gallbladder
    showing me I cannot digest fats well. Should I be worried about the BIG C? Should I do a liver and gb cleanse?
    I do not have pain, and my general health is good, yet I am worried and just would ask anyone reading this who has had experience with such a
    condition to comment.What screening tests(stool sample OR blood work) should I consider?
    I decided I will start a food and and void diary tomorrow and see if this can help when I see Doc
    in about 2 weeks.
    comments welcome.

  2. Sharon
    Reply

    For 2 weeks, I have had greasy, floating stools preety soon after I eat. I find I am hungry frequently.
    I believe this is too quick transit time from eating to excreting.
    should I be concerned about this signaling a serious medical illness?!
    Anyone have any experience with such a condition or any direction for me??
    would a stool sample OR a basic blood test be the best screening.
    Also, could this be that my liver and gallbladder are not digesting fats”
    Comments or suggestions would be very appreciated!

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