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.