Stomach cancer symptoms tend, at the beginning, to be very vague. Every year 21,520 people are diagnosed with about 10,340 of them dying from it. The majority of sufferers are men, and the average age when the disease is detected is around 70. The risk is higher in people who smoke, have been infected by the helicobacter pylori bacteria and developed ulcers from the infection, eat a diet high in foods that are salted, pickled or processed, like bacon or cured ham, and have close relatives who’ve had stomach cancer. Other risk factors are blood type, as people with Type A blood have a slightly higher risk for getting the disease. Alcoholics, or people who have a heavy alcohol consumption, are also more at risk. Other factors are gastritis, or stomach inflammation, decreased stomach acid, and having part of the stomach removed surgically.
Stomach cancer is the fourth leading cancer in the world and is the second cause of cancer related death after lung cancer. It’s not as common in the United States as it is in other countries, particularly Asian countries.
Stomach Cancer Signs and Stomach Cancer Symptoms
The most common victims of stomach cancer are men over 65. The condition, like so many conditions that involve the digestive tract, is difficult to diagnose in its early stage because stomach cancer symptoms are nonspecific. This means they could be anything from indigestion to the beginnings of cancer. In stomach cancer’s earliest stages there may be no symptoms at all, or the vague symptoms of indigestion, such as fullness, burping, nausea and decreased appetite. By the time these symptoms occur, the cancer may already have spread to the bones, liver or lungs.
Later symptoms are unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and vomiting blood that resembles coffee grinds. The person may pass black, tarry stools, which indicates blood in them. They may feel full after eating only small amounts of food. They may suffer from anemia from internal blood loss and have pain or discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen. They may or may not be able to feel a mass in the same area.
Stomach Cancer Early Stage Signs
-Indegestion or a burning sensation (heartburn)
-Loss of appetite, especially for meat
Later Stage Signs
-Abdominal pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen
-Nausea and vomiting
-Diarrhea or constipation
-Bloating of the stomach after meals
-Weakness and fatigue
-Bleeding which can lead to anemia
-Dysphagia To find the cause of symptoms, your physician will ask about the your medical history, do a physical exam, and may order laboratory studies. He/She may also order one or all of the following exams:
-Gastroscopic exam is the diagnostic method of choice. This involves insertion of a fibre optic camera into the stomach
-Upper GI series
-Computed tomography or CT scanning of the abdomen can visualize gastric cancer, but is especially helpful to determine if metastasis has spread to nearby tissues or the lymph system
Stomach Cancer Symptoms That Go Unnoticed
1. Stomachache or Stomach Pain
Many people suffer from stomach upsets every single day. Thus, it is understandable that, although it is also a cancer symptom, most people don’t jump to cancer fears after experiencing a stomachache. The key here is to take notice of three things.
First, can you attribute your stomachache to any digestive problem? If it is unexplained, then it pays to have it checked.
Second, what kind of pain is it? Although most people simply feel pain, there are in fact many different types of pain. Pain caused by cancer is usually a dull ache that presses inwardly. The position of the pain can also give you an idea of where the problem is coming from.
Third, how long does the stomachache last? If it is persistent or if it keeps coming back, it is best to get an ultrasound. Finding a stomach tumor early can spell a huge difference in terms of treatment and chances of recovery.
2. Acidic Stomach
One of the earliest symptoms of stomach cancer is an acid stomach, or the tendency to feel so full even after a small meal or even when you have not eaten much. Usually attributed simply to the feeling of fullness, or to indigestion, people simply let their acid stomach pass or take antacids for them. Most of the time, it really is just indigestion or overeating, but if you notice yourself getting bouts of acid stomach very often and even without eating much, then there is reason to be concerned.
3. Unexplained Weight Loss
Many people would welcome weight loss, so when they do begin losing weight rather drastically, they usually don’t get alarmed. But if you find yourself suddenly losing weight after trying so hard without getting results, this means your weight loss is out of the ordinary. Unexplained weight loss is an early symptom of stomach cancer. Usually, the cancer in the stomach affects your body’s ability to digest food and thus affects your appetite negatively.
Any unusual and surprisingly fast loss of weight, when not accompanied by a change in diet or exercise routines, should be brought to the attention of a doctor.
Advanced Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
Many people only start taking notice of what their bodies are telling them when they experience the more telltale symptoms, such as blood in the stool, vomiting, vomiting blood, and weakness or fatigue. These more serious symptoms are indicative of an advanced stage cancer, and by then, it might already be too late to seek effective treatment.
Thus, it is most important to give your body the credit it deserves. Pay attention when you experience anything unusual, as your body may already be telling you something. The earliest, mildest, and most common symptoms of stomach cancer are actually the most important, as how you react to them may just save your life.
Other symptoms of stomach cancer include abdominal pain. Frequent and severe abdominal pains can already be a sign of advanced cancer. Other noticeable signs of stomach cancer are abdominal bloating and reflux.
Vomiting and nausea are also vague indications of stomach cancer. Constant vomiting can damage the esophagus and can also lead to irregular metabolism. Dysphagia or difficult swallowing also occurs once the esophagus is damaged. The esophagus is a tube connected to the stomach and one of the first body parts to be infected once the cancer spreads outside the stomach.
Loss of appetite for two days is still considered normal or simply a sign of non-fatal infections such as fever. However, if the condition lasts longer, then it can already be a symptom of more serious illnesses such as stomach cancer. Losing about 5% of your weight in less than six months without any aim of dieting can also be considered serious. This may be due to irregular bowel movement and heightened loss of appetite due to stomach cancer. Irregular bowel movement may be characterized by constipation and diarrhea or alternation of both. Constant burping also signifies changes in the digestive function.
Heartburn and fatigue can be natural. However, experiencing these two even without engaging in strenuous activities is already a red flag. Heartburn can be caused by the irregular metabolism and clogging of acids in the lower esophagus. Prolonged fatigue, on the other hand, can be a side effect of anemia. People with stomach cancer experience anemia due to blood loss through vomiting or through stools. There are also some cases of blood clots within the lungs and the legs. These cause swelling of the legs and constant breathlessness accompanied by chest pains. Blood clotting usually occurs after hemorrhage anemia or profuse bleeding. Internal bleeding, especially in areas apart from the digestive tract, is already an indication of critical stomach cancer.
If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to seek medical assistance. Though these indications are vague, immediate diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent further complications of the sickness.