We all get stomach aches from time to time, but pain is usually not the first symptom of stomach cancer.
So what should be considered instead?
General surgeon Daniel Joyce, MBBCh, shares what symptoms you may experience and when to see your doctor.
What is stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, affects your stomach. Located in the upper part of your abdomen (gastrointestinal or GI tract), your stomach digests the food you eat. Stomach cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in the stomach.
Over the past 10 years, doctors have seen a decline in the incidence of stomach cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, stomach cancer accounts for about 1.5 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States each year.
The main reason for the decrease is that Helicobacter pylori infection, a type of bacteria known as H. pylori, is being diagnosed earlier than before. H. pylori causes chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa, as well as ulcers, and is considered one of the main causes of gastric cancer.
“Now we can diagnose H. pylori and treat patients with antibiotics when they are symptomatic, killing the infection and reducing the overall risk of stomach cancer,” explained Dr. Joyce.
But he warns that a particular type of stomach cancer called gastroesophageal nodular adenocarcinoma is on the rise. This cancer starts in the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach.
Dr. Joyce said, “There is an obesity problem in the United States. “This causes more acid reflux into the esophagus, which leads to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which can eventually lead to cancer.”
Early warning signals
The early symptoms of stomach cancer are usually not noticed because there are no special symptoms.
Stomach cancer is one such complex diagnosis. Most people may experience symptoms, but they are often not obvious. These symptoms can be confused with many other benign (non-malignant) gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.
When stomach cancer is finally diagnosed, these symptoms are not considered normal GI problems and occur in most people.
But there are some early warning signs:
Your stomach may feel bloated and tight, says Dr. Joyce.
“Gastric cancer makes the stomach wall very hard and reduces its ability to retain food,” he notes. “When stomach cancer spreads to the lining of the abdomen, it can cause fluid to build up in the abdomen.”
This can cause you to bloat so much that you look like you’re nine months pregnant.
Has anyone not had a heart attack, especially after a night of hot wings and pizza?
Heartburn with burning in the chest and upper throat is common, says Dr. Joyce, and is usually nothing to worry about.
But if you have persistent heartburn that doesn’t go away with antacids or other medications, there may be cause for concern.
“If there’s a lot of cancer at the exit point of the stomach, fluid can accumulate and the path of least resistance may be up the esophagus/esophagus,” says Dr. Joyce.
Nausea and vomiting
Another sign of a growth blocking the bowel? Feelings of nausea and even vomiting.
The food you eat and the fluids you drink cannot reach the first part of the intestine, the duodenum.
Dr. Joyce said, “Once you eat, you have nowhere to go. “It sends a signal to your brain that makes you feel nauseous.”
You get stomach pains from time to time, and that’s what worries some people, but it’s actually not among the early signs that predict the possibility of stomach cancer.
The question that arises is: what are the things to pay attention to in the context of the risk of stomach cancer?
And the “Cleveland” health clinic website on the Internet cites surgeon Daniel Joyce, the most important symptoms of this type of cancer, which are as follows:
Stomach bloating: One of the first signs of stomach cancer is excessive bloating in the stomach, to the point that a person may look nine months pregnant.
In less severe cases, the cancer makes the stomach wall too stiff, reducing its storage capacity and causing a buildup of fluid in the stomach, leading to bloating.
Heartburn: Who among us has not felt heartburn after eating a meal soaked in spices? Heartburn is common and nothing to worry about.
But if a person has prolonged heartburn that isn’t relieved by antacids or other medications, there may be cause for concern.
Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are signs of a mass growing inside the stomach to the point of blocking part of the stomach outlet.
A general feeling of discomfort: There is a feeling of discomfort in people with this cancer, due to the spread of cancerous growths in the lining of the abdomen, and the feeling may feel like bloating.
Unexpected weight loss: Weight loss is the result of physical exertion or dietary restriction, but unexplained weight loss is a likely sign of stomach cancer and is perhaps the most concerning symptom.
Fatigue: This symptom appears as a result of slow loss of blood which, together with unexplained weight loss, can be a sign of cancer.
Blood in the stool: This symptom is less common than others and occurs if the person is losing a lot of blood, but if the bleeding is very slow you may not notice anything in the stool.
An irrational feeling of fullness: The first feeling occurs after eating a small amount of food, and the small amount is measured by approximately 20% of the total natural meal a person eats.