Q. I read your column about floating poop. When I experienced this about seven years ago I ignored it because there were no other symptoms. Luckily for me, I ended up in the emergency room with a kidney stone. This is likely the first time ever you have heard anybody say he was lucky to have a kidney stone.

When they performed a CT scan to find the stone, they found the cause of my floating poop–pancreatic cancer.

One of the reasons the survival rate for pancreatic cancer is so low is that it is rarely found early. By the time most people are symptomatic, it has metastasized. The tumor had blocked the bile duct just enough to cause the floating poop symptom.

I had a Whipple procedure and am one of the very few survivors of pancreatic cancer. Please tell the person with floating poop to see a doctor.

A. You are not the only reader who made a connection between “floaters” and pancreatic cancer. Several readers remembered a televised interview with the late Randy Pausch, author of “The Last Lecture,” in which he talked about this as a symptom of his pancreatic cancer.

There are other causes of floating poop, and many are not serious. Just the same, it makes sense to discuss this symptom with a physician.

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  1. Tiffany

    For the past 3 months, I have started get yellowish brown floating stool that are soft and watery. I also started passing out more gas than usual and they are smellier than before. I have not had any major changes to my diet or lifestyle. I was wondering what might be the cause of this and if it was possible that I could get any illnesses since I’m in my teens. It has not been very bad but it feels uncomfortable and I am worried that I will pass gas at an inappropriate time. My stool is also smelly and liquid-like which is very unpleasant. Please help!

    • krissy

      I’m experiencing the same thing. Any answers?

  2. SMW

    I have narrow brownish yellow floating stools. I am also suffering from a side ache, left lower part of my side. I also have psoriasis. I have had diverticulitis in the past. I’m concerned about pancreatic cancer. I go to the Dr. In June for my annual checkup. Should I make an earlier appt or just wait?
    People’s Pharmacy response: Pale stool can have several causes. Those associated with pancreatic cancer are likely to be greasy and bulky. Other symptoms that may accompany pancreatic cancer include back pain, abdominal pain (especially after a meal), loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, blood clots in the veins. If any of those sound like you, push your appointment up. Otherwise, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor at your annual checkup.

  3. lac

    Every day for the last 3 years I’ve noticed graduated floating stools, now they all float all the time. I kept going back to the Dr. Pausch’s comment on floating stools and decided to research via google. It was inspiring to listen to “The Last Lecture” all over again.
    I mentioned my circumstances to my MD about a year ago and he laughed it off… The second MD also dismissed my concerns now 6 months past. Now what?
    I suppose I should find another MD or should I contact a pancreatic cancer center and see if there are other tests? I do not appear to have other symptoms other than occasional indigestion.

  4. njktrg

    Have them check your gall bladder. This is a common symptom for gall bladder issues.

  5. Lisa

    I’m really scared. I have pale yellow floating stools. I’ve gone off my food, I do eat at dinner times though but my appetite isn’t good anymore. I’ve been to the doctors and had loads of blood tests including full blood count and inflammation markers and the doctors said my results are excellent and he said I should stop worrying as something would have indicated something in my blood.
    It’s just after everything I’ve read points to cancer. I’m 31 years old and doctors say I should be assured by this but its not unknown that this age group has got it. please help.

  6. Janet c.

    Yes, I have floating poop, Not every time I have a bowel movement. Is there anything to be concerned about?

  7. MB tha MD

    It seems that floating poo is a general phenom of all human beings whether ill in good health. I’m sure it can be pinned down to fiber and the methane gas that is produced as a result of it. I get it. Have since I was a kid. Still in good health as of today.

  8. SRB

    I too, have been told when your stool floats it is a sign you are getting enough fiber.
    Hope this is the case.

  9. SW

    I saw the remarks on “floating poop”. I have had that for years, so I reasoned I must not have pancreatic cancer or I would be long gone. I started researching and found that I probably have celiac’s disease. Many of the symptoms fit my problems, many of which have been brought to the attention of various doctors to no particular help (and some of which recommended mental help). I haven’t had any wheat for several weeks and many of the symptoms are improving.

  10. jz

    After colon cancer surgery, I was having problems with a constriction of the colon at the surgical repair site and “skinny” frequent poops. My surgeon told me he wanted me to have “fat floaters” and to do that I needed to add a lot of both fiber and water to my diet. My surgery was 9 years ago and I’m doing fine. No other problems.

  11. KRB

    We were advised several years ago that if our stools did not float we were not receiving enough fiber in our diet.

  12. r wilson


  13. S.H.

    A few years ago we were told that floaters were good. Why? Supposedly it meant a lot of fiber was being consumed in our sad American diet. Hence, the more fiber consumed, the more floaters.
    Go figure! A few years ago (1980’s) people were told that coffee was BAD and so were eggs; both industries suffered. Now, we hear the opposite!

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