Stomach cancer begins when abnormal cells begin to grow in the cells of tissues lining or surrounding your stomach. Your stomach is located on the left side of your body in your upper abdominal cavity. While stomach cancer can affect any part of the organ, in the United States, the area most commonly involved in stomach cancer is known as the gastroesophageal junction. This is the portion of your stomach that connects to your esophagus — where food enters after you’ve chewed and swallowed it.
The early signs of stomach cancer can be nonspecific, meaning they may resemble the symptoms of other conditions. However, several of the most common symptoms of stomach cancer you should watch out for include the following.
Many people with stomach cancer experience mild or severe forms of indigestion during the early stages. Symptoms may include heartburn, slight nausea, a loss of appetite or a bloated feeling after meals. These symptoms don’t only happen with stomach cancer, but if you continue experiencing them regularly you should talk to your doctor to determine the cause. This is particularly important if you have any risk factors for stomach cancer. Common risk factors include eating a diet high in pickled, salty or smoked foods; smoking; having type A blood; being exposed to asbestos; and living with obesity.
Stomach Pain and Fullness
As a stomach tumor grows, you might experience more serious symptoms that result in pain or discomfort. Stomach pain is the most common symptom. If you experience stomach pain accompanied by vomiting, weight loss for no reason or blood in your stool, contact your doctor for an overall evaluation of your health. You might also experience trouble swallowing, constipation, diarrhea, swelling in your stomach, or a yellow tint to your eyes or skin.
Stomach cancer often causes chronic fatigue or exhaustion as a primary symptom. Although chronic fatigue isn’t the sole symptom of stomach cancer, it could be a sign that cancerous cells have developed in the lining of your stomach, causing fatigue and decreased energy. Your doctor can evaluate you for stomach cancer by conducting a medical exam, taking an assessment of your symptoms and evaluating your risk factors.
An upper endoscopy is the primary test doctors use to detect stomach cancer. This procedure involves passing a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera down your throat to capture images of the lining of your esophagus and stomach. If these images show abnormal areas, your doctor may take a tissue sample for a biopsy to determine if cancerous cells are present in the lining of your stomach. You might also see a doctor who’ll perform an ultrasound on your stomach to look for abnormal areas.
Treating Stomach Cancer
Treatment may include targeted medications such as chemotherapy. The medication fights cancer cells by killing them or preventing them from spreading. Radiation treatment involves using an X-ray to direct high-energy particles or waves to the site of the cancer to shrink tumors or eliminate cancer cells. If your cancer is more severe, your doctor may need to remove tissues near your stomach or a part of your stomach to rid your body of the tumor or cancer cells.
Stomach cancer begins in your stomach and slowly develops over several years. Symptoms of stomach cancer start developing while precancerous cells begin to cause changes in the inner lining of your stomach. If you recognize the symptoms and seek treatment in the early stages of stomach cancer, it can increase your rate of survival.