Signs Vs Symptoms Of Cancer
Signs and symptoms of disease can be two different things:
- A sign is something that can be observed by another person, such as a change in skin color or wheezing.
- A symptom is something you feel, such as fatigue or pain, that isnt obvious to others.
The nature of cancer signs and symptoms differ greatly, depending on where the cancer is located.
Bladder cancer, for instance, causes blood in the urine, while brain cancer triggers terrible headaches.
Five Things You Need To Know About Stomach Cancer
Medically reviewed by Peter C. Enzinger, MD
Although not a common type of cancer in the United States, stomach cancer is the second leading cancer death worldwide, and affects more men than women.
The United States risk is much less because of hygiene and the safety of foods we eat, and more to do with overall health and genetic predisposition, explains Peter C. Enzinger, MD, medical director for the Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Womens Cancer Center .
As November marks Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, here are some facts about stomach cancer:
1.) What are the risk factors of Stomach Cancer?
Although doctors and researchers dont know the exact cause of stomach cancer, there are some factors that increase risk. They include:
- Helicobacter pylori infection.
- Chronic stomach inflammation
- Having a mother, father, sister or brother who has had stomach cancer.
2.) What are the Symptoms of stomach cancer?
Symptoms of stomach cancer are often symptoms of other health problems that may not be as serious. Since there are no physical signs during the early stages, it is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
People who have stomach cancer might experience lack of appetite, difficulty swallowing, fatigue from anemia, discomfort or pain in the stomach area or feeling full early.
3.) How is stomach cancer diagnosed?
4.) How is stomach cancer treated?
5.) Can stomach cancer be inherited?
Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
Most patients with early-stage stomach cancer have no symptoms of the disease. In other cases, stomach cancer patients may mistake their symptoms for a common stomach virus. When the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are not apparent, the disease may reach advanced stages before a diagnosis is made. Thats why it is important that patients considered high risk talk to their doctors about symptoms that may be signs of a stomach tumor.
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Advanced Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
As the cancer grows larger and spreads beyond the stomach, it may start causing more noticeable symptoms. The signs and symptoms of more advanced stomach cancer may include:
- Blood in the stool
- Unexplained and unintentional weight loss
- Belly pain
- Buildup of fluid, or swelling, in the abdominal area
How To Lower Your Risk
As a society, we eat a lot of processed and unhealthy foods that cause these benign symptoms that we have. We really need to shift back to a cleaner, mostly plant-based diet, says Dr. El-Hayek. Theres no doubt that the data supports a diet thats rich in fresh vegetables, minimal fruit and minimal meat, especially processed meat. Avoiding these toxic foods will not only decrease a persons risk for cancer development, but also the digestive symptoms from eating them.
Frequently Asked Questions And Patient Concerns:
How do you know you have stomach cancer ?
Stomach cancer has very generic symptoms. These symptoms may be caused by other reasons as well and not just stomach cancer. Symptoms may be vomiting, nausea, frequent heartburn, feeling of bloating and sudden weight loss without any reason. These are very common symptoms and may not always be stomach cancer. But if you are at risk from factors like elderly age, high fat diet and having symptoms for a long time, it would be better to visit the doctor and go through screening to find reasons behind the symptoms.
What are the early stages of stomach cancer ?
Early stages of stomach cancer often get unnoticed because of very common symptoms. In the early stages of stomach cancer patients may feel fullness even after small meals, loss of appetite, fatigue, pain just above belly button area, indigestion, heartburn. Patients may also get blood in vomit or in stool.
Is stomach cancer curable ?
Stomach cancer is often diagnosed in later stages. This is the reason stomach cancer cant be completely cured in many cases. But it is treatable to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Chemotherapy , Radiotherapy or surgery is carried out to remove cancerous cells and provide relief to the patient.
What is the survival rate of stomach cancer ?
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Indigestion That Doesn’t Go Away And Burping
You can get indigestion when acid from the stomach goes back up into the food pipe . Or you can get it if you have any irritation in your stomach. This often happens after eating .
Remember, indigestion is common and it’s not usually caused by cancer. Indigestion and heartburn can be very painful, even if nothings seriously wrong. See your doctor if youve had heartburn most days for 3 weeks or more.
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Whats The Life Expectancy For Stage 4 Stomach Cancer
When you think about life expectancy, there are some important things to keep in mind:
- Many factors affect your prognosis, including age, overall health, and the treatments you choose. Also, everyone responds differently to treatments, and theres no way to know how your body will respond.
- Survival rates are based on the stage at diagnosis.
- Relative survival rates compare people who have stomach cancer with people in the general population who dont have cancer.
- These statistics were compiled based on people diagnosed years ago. Cancer treatments change quickly. The latest treatments and increasing lifespans arent reflected in those earlier numbers.
According to the , the overall relative survival rate for all stages of stomach cancer is 31.5 percent. The five-year relative survival rate for distant stomach cancer is 5.3 percent. These figures include people diagnosed between 2009 and 2015.
Your doctor will consider your complete medical profile to help you understand your own outlook.
What Are Different Types Of Stomach Cancer
It is the most common type of stomach cancer. It is found in 90 to 95% of the cases of stomach cancer. Adenocarcinoma is further divided into 2 types.
First one, Intestinal carcinoma are slow to grow and can be cured. It is found in elderly people.
Second one, Diffuse adenocarcinoma is rare and aggressive in nature. So, it spreads fast in the body. It is found in younger people.
Carcinoid tumors form in hormone producing cells in the stomach. They generally do not spread to other organs and are rare in nature, 3% of total stomach cancers are carcinoid tumors. So, that was all about types of stomach cancer. Now we will see what causes stomach cancer.
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You’re Having Trouble Swallowing
If you have a stomach tumor that is extending up into the esophagus, you might experience something called dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. You might notice this as a feeling that food is getting stuck in your throat, says Ocean, or it might present as coughing or choking while eating or drinking, according to the American College of Gastroenterology .
In some cases, it may also feel like food comes back up shortly after eating it, per the ACG, which also notes that heartburn will likely accompany difficulty swallowing. Regardless, swallowing is kind of an essential part of being a human, so it’s best to get that checked out ASAP.
What Is Stomach Cancer In Dogs
Unfortunately, although its possible for a dog to have a benign tumor or polyp in the stomach, the majority of stomach tumors found in dogs are malignant .
Stomach cancer in dogs can come in many forms – leiomyosarcomas , mast cell tumors , and adenocarcinomas are the most common.
Tumors that affect the stomach are likely to metastasize to nearby areas, such as the lymph nodes, liver, and inner lining of the abdomen.
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Treatment For Stomach Cancer
Tests and procedures used to diagnose gastric cancer may include an upper endoscopy, imaging tests such as a CT scan, and a special X-ray called a barium swallow test. Sometimes, exploratory surgery is needed to fully understand the stage and extent of gastric cancer, which helps determine the best course of treatment.
There are a few main options doctors use to treat stomach cancer. These options include:
How Is Stomach Cancer Treated
Treatments will entirely depend on your overall health and how far the cancer has spread. Treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy and chemoradiation and are determined by what stage your cancer is at when diagnosed, you may receive surgery alone or a combination of these treatments. Often if your tumor is stage 1B upwards at diagnosis then chemotherapy or chemoradiation may be given before surgery in order to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove.
As this blog has hopefully made clear, its essential that we dont ignore the early warning signs our body is giving us of stomach cancer, or any condition of the stomach. If youre experiencing any of these symptoms, its hopefully something much less serious, but taking a few minutes to research them on the Isabel Symptom Checker and discussing the results with your doctor is a great next step.
How Is It Diagnosed
Since people with stomach cancer rarely show symptoms in the early stages, the disease is often not diagnosed until its more advanced.
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will first perform a physical exam to check for any abnormalities. They may also order a blood test, including a test for the presence of H. pylori bacteria.
More diagnostic tests will need to be done if your doctor believes that you show signs of stomach cancer. Diagnostic tests specifically look for suspected tumors and other abnormalities in the stomach and esophagus. These tests may include:
- an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
Signs And Symptoms Of Stomach Cancer
Early-stage stomach cancer rarely causes symptoms. In countries where screening for stomach cancer is not routine, such as the United States, most stomach cancers arent found until theyve grown fairly large or have spread outside the stomach.
When stomach cancer does cause signs and symptoms, they can include:
- Poor appetite
- Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
- Feeling full after eating only a small meal
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Blood in the stool
- Feeling tired or weak, as a result of having too few red blood cells
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes , if the cancer spreads to the liver
Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by things other than stomach cancer, such as a viral infection or an ulcer. Some of these symptoms may also be caused by other types of cancer. But people who have any of these problems, especially if they dont go away or get worse, should see a doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Ku GY, Ilson DH. Chapter 72: Cancer of the Stomach. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloffs Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier 2020.
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How Stomach Cancer Spreads
There are 3 ways stomach cancer can spread:
- directly the cancer can spread from the stomach into nearby tissues and organs, such as the pancreas, colon, small intestine and peritoneum
- through the lymphatic system the lymphatic system is a series of glands located throughout your body, similar to the blood circulatory system the glands produce specialised cells needed by your immune system to fight infection
- through the blood which can cause the cancer to spread from the stomach to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver
Stomach cancer that spreads to another part of the body is known as metastatic stomach cancer.
What Are The Different Stages Of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer is staged based on the severity of cancerous cell growth and spread. Adenocarcinoma is initially evaluated by the tumor, node metastasis system.
- T: How deeply has the tumor spread into the stomach wall?
- N: Has the stomach cancer spread to the lymph nodes?
- M: Has the stomach cancer spread to other parts of the body?
After the TNM staging information has been taken into account, the cancer is staged at 0 or 1 to 4. Tumor classifications for staging are as follows:
- Stage 0 is early cancer on the surface of the stomach lining.
- Stage 1A or 1B
- Stage 2A or 2B, commonly with deeper stomach wall involved
- Stage 3A or 3B or 3C, commonly with lymph node involvement
- Stage 4 means cancer has metastasized elsewhere in the body outside of the stomach.
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What About Other Treatments I Hear About
You might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or to treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may be vitamins, herbs, special diets, and other things.
Some of these are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
Blood In The Stool Or Vomit
This is not a sure sign of stomach cancer. Bleeding is rare and can also be caused by other noncancerous conditions. However, when tumor bleeding occurs, you may notice blood in your stool or vomit. The blood may be dark red or dark brown depending on how long it has been in the stomach.
Even when present in small amounts, blood in either your vomit or stool requires a visit to the doctor.
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Stomach Cancer: Symptoms Causes And Diagnosis
Take a look at the stats for Stomach Cancer, also known as Gastric Cancer, and youll realise its not an easy one to diagnose. Out of an estimated 28,000 cases in the US each year, nearly a third, 10,960, are expected to die. The figures in the UK are even worse with only 15% of patients expected to live beyond 10 years. The real clue lies in the fact that nearly a third of British patients first present with the illness in their emergency or A& E department, and given that the typical initial symptoms such as indigestion, wind or heartburn arent exactly emergency symptoms, this implies that most patients are experiencing a substantial and often fatal delay in getting a diagnosis. As stomach cancer symptoms are often easily mistaken for less serious conditions, its understandable that both patient and doctor wont suspect a potentially fatal cancer as the cause. Which is why weve devoted this weeks blog to discussing the symptoms and when to seek advice, in the hopes we can help sufferers present much earlier to their doctor and consequently find a cure.
Certain Factors Affect Prognosis And Treatment Options
The prognosis and treatment options depend on the following:
- The stage of the cancer .
- The patients general health.
When gastric cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. Gastric cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed. At later stages, gastric cancer can be treated but rarely can be cured. Taking part in one of the clinical trials being done to improve treatment should be considered. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
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After A Diagnosis Of Stomach Cancer
After being diagnosed with a stomach cancer, you may feel shocked, upset, anxious or confused. These are normal responses. A diagnosis of a stomach or oesophageal cancer affects each person differently. For most it will be a difficult time, however some people manage to continue with their normal daily activities.
You may find it helpful to talk about your treatment options with your doctors, family and friends. Ask questions and seek as much information as you feel you need. It is up to you as to how involved you want to be in making decisions about your treatment.
Learn more about best stomach cancer care:
Whos At Risk Of Stomach Cancer
In the vast majority of cases, stomach cancer is linked to lifestyle factors, which may explain why it rarely affects the young. 95% of cases occur in the over 55s and men are twice as likely to develop the condition but these lifestyle choices also play a huge part:
- Smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to develop the disease, as inhaled smoke can end up in the stomach, which in turn damages the stomach cells
- Diet. Countries with a diet rich in pickled vegetables, salted fish and smoked meats have a higher incidence of stomach cancer. If this sounds familiar, try to add more fibre and more fresh fruit and veg to your diet. According to Cancer Research UK, high salt intake is a particularly grave risk factor for stomach cancer. If you think youre having more than the recommended 6g of salt a day, which is around a teaspoon, try to cut down. Bear in mind though that most of our salt intake is already in everyday foods such as bread, cereals and ready meals
- Family history. Its not clear whether this is genetic or down more to shared lifestyles
- Previous cancer sufferers. Sadly previous cancer patients have an increased risk of developing the disease
- Certain medical conditions. Examples include patients with pernicious anaemia and those suffering from peptic ulcers or helicobacter pylori infections
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