Stomach cancer: Five of the ‘first signs’ that may arise – they are ‘often vague’

Deborah James leaves hospital after bowel cancer surgery

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Indeed, Cancer Research UK notes: “Symptoms of early stomach cancer can be similar to the symptoms of other conditions, such as stomach ulcers.” It says your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to stomach cancer. Some of the early signs are similar to signs caused by other conditions, but should be checked nonetheless.

Dr Sanjay Mehta, GP at The London General Practice, has outlined some possible early signs of stomach cancer, though notes they could also signal other conditions.

The doctor explained: “Stomach cancer can present with a number of different symptoms, including difficulty swallowing, upper abdominal pain, acid reflux, and loss of weight.

“However, the first signs of stomach cancer are often vague, but may include heartburn, indigestion, changes in appetite, including feeling full after eating small amounts, and nausea and vomiting.”

“Early stomach cancer can also bleed into the stomach, which reduces the number of red blood cells and presents as anaemia on a blood test, another potentially early warning sign,” Dr Sanjay added.

The health expert noted that whilst some of these symptoms are relatively common and can be caused by other gastrointestinal conditions, such as acid reflux or ulcers rather than cancer, “individuals should still discuss these with their doctor if such symptoms have persisted for three weeks or more.”

Cancer Research has also outlined some other signs of stomach cancer. The charity says: “You might feel pain or a burning sensation when you swallow, or your food may stick in your throat or chest.

“This can be caused by other conditions but it is important to get this symptom checked by your doctor.”

Other people experience weight loss when they are not trying to lose weight. “Rarely, extreme weight loss can be a sign of an advanced cancer,” says the charity.

It says there are also a number of other signs, which include:

  • Indigestion (dyspepsia) that doesn’t go away
  • Feeling full after eating small amounts
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Tiredness due to low red blood cells (anaemia)

“Symptoms of early stomach cancer can be similar to the symptoms of other conditions, such as stomach ulcers,” it says.

Nonetheless, Cancer Research warns: “You should see your doctor if you have unexplained weight loss or you have symptoms that are unusual for you or that won’t go away.

“Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it is important to get them checked by a doctor.”

Macmillan says: “The main test used to diagnose stomach cancer is an endoscopy. This is a test that looks at the lining of your oesophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of your small bowel).”

It adds: “The results of your tests help your doctors find out more about the position of the cancer and whether it has spread. This is called staging.”

The charity says: “The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown. But things called risk factors can increase the chance of a person developing it.

“Having a risk factor does not mean you will get stomach cancer. And if you do not have any risk factors, it does not mean you will not get stomach cancer.”

Macmillan says the risk of developing stomach cancer increases as we get older. Over half of people who develop it are 75 or older. It is more common in men than in women.

It adds: “Smoking increases the risk of stomach cancer. The longer a person smokes for and the more they smoke, the greater the risk. The risk reduces when you stop smoking.”

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