Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, refers to a variety of cancers and tumors that start in the stomach. While there are a variety of treatment options, stomach cancer is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can interfere with quality of life to an astonishing degree. Knowing the signs of stomach cancer can help you know when it’s time to take a trip to the doctor. Here’s a look at understanding stomach cancer and its symptoms.
Understanding Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer is caused by genetic mutations in the DNA of cells. These abnormalities interrupt the normal cellular cycle of growth, division, and death, so that cells grow and divide at a much faster rate than normal, with a tendency to skip the dying part of the cycle all together. Many types of cancer start with “precancerous changes,” often in the inner lining of the stomach (that closest to the point where food collects) called the “mucosa.” These precancerous changes may not cause obvious symptoms, and so it can take many years for the signs of stomach cancer to become evident at all.
The type of cancer present and the part of the stomach it inhabits (i.e. the mucosa versus the gastroesophageal junction, where the esophagus meets the stomach) can impact the precise symptoms that develop -- as well as what course of treatment will be most appropriate. However, for the most part, symptoms share a general theme. Many other diseases can cause some of the same signs, but this doesn’t make it any less important to talk to your doctor about what’s going on in your digestive tract as soon as possible.
Only one of the rarest forms of stomach cancer, carcinoid tumors, tends not to metastasize beyond the stomach. Because it can take so long to notice the presence of gastric cancer, it has that much more time to become that much more invasive.
Signs of Stomach Cancer
Almost all forms of cancer cause unexpected fatigue. You may find you simply don’t have the energy that you used to; beyond the impact of aging. As with many other cancers and chronic diseases, unintentional weight loss is a common occurrence. This may be particularly apt for stomach cancer, as it impacts one of the most important organs involved in caloric and nutritional intake.
Additionally, some of the other symptoms can also cause some of that inadvertent weight loss. Stomach cancer may cause persistent nausea and vomiting, along with indigestion and heartburn. You may also notice a pain in your stomach that is different than your standard stomach ache. Other common signs of stomach cancer include a sensation of fullness despite eating little. You may also notice that you feel bloated when you eat.