Researchers may have found an early warning system to employ to help doctors more readily and rapidly diagnose pancreatic cancer. This especially deadly form of cancer is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in America each year. It has a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent.

Hoping to gain a better way to ferret out this form of cancer earlier through screenings, researchers have been looking into the connection between oral issues and pancreatic cancer. It has long been known that people with pancreatic cancer tend to be more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. They also suffer from poor overall oral health in many cases. This led researchers on a hunt to understand why. That hunt has led them to a better understanding of the bacteria in the mouth of pancreatic cancer patients that is responsible for causing oral disease and is often linked to pancreatic cancer down the road.

Researchers say they’ve found specific changes in the microbial mix found within the mouth. This change could serve as an early warning sign for the disease. The study uncovered a 59 percent higher risk for men and women who had a specific microbiome in their mouths than those who did not.

The full implications of the study remain unclear, but researchers hope that follow up will continue to lead to discoveries that may one day improve early diagnosis potential for this disease. Researchers say more work needs to be done to better understand the relationship between the bacteria and the risks posed for pancreatic cancer.

People who are at risk for pancreatic cancer are urged to discuss this condition with their healthcare providers. While no large scale early screening tests are available for this disease, those at high risk may find screening available to them. Personal doctors can also help identify specific risks and work with patients to lower those that can be addressed.