Early-stage stomach cancer or gastric cancer rarely causes symptoms. This is one of the reasons stomach cancer is so hard to detect early. The signs and symptoms of stomach cancer can include:
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss (without trying)
- Abdominal (belly) pain
- Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
- A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Blood in the stool
- Low red blood cell count (anemia)
- Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing suggests a cancer in the cardia of the stomach or extension of the gastric cancer into the esophagus.
Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by things other than cancer, such as a stomach virus or an ulcer. They may also occur with other types of cancer. But people, who have any of these problems, especially if they don’t go away or get worse, should check with their doctor so the cause can be found and treated.
Since symptoms of stomach cancer often do not appear until the disease is advanced, only about 1 in 5 stomach cancers in India is found at an early stage, before it has spread to other areas of the body.
Can Stomach Cancer Be Found Early?
Screening is testing for a disease, such as cancer, in people without symptoms. In areas where stomach cancer is very common, mass screening of the population has helped find many cases at an early, curable stage.
Studies have not found that routine screening in people at average risk for stomach cancer is useful, because this disease is not that common. On the other hand, people with certain stomach cancer risk factors may benefit from screening. Some of the tests that could be used for screening, such as upper endoscopy.
Because routine screening for stomach cancer is not done, most people with this disease are not diagnosed until they have certain signs and symptoms that point to the need for medical tests.