Symptoms & Signs

of Gastric Cancer

Individuals with gastric cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with gastric cancer do not have any of these changes, or the cause of a symptom may be another medical condition that is not cancer.

  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Pain or discomfort in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating of the stomach after meals
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensation of food getting stuck in the throat while eating

Symptoms of advanced stomach cancer may include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Vomiting blood or having blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss

Cause Gastric cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic change (mutation) that causes them to turn into abnormal cells. Development of gastric cancer can occur as a result of chronic inflammation due to infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria.1

Risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer.  Risk factors can influence the development of cancer but most do not directly cause cancer. Many individuals with risk factors will never develop cancer and others with no known risk factors will.  Most gastric cancers develop sporadically, which means for no known reason. Some gastric cancers however are more likely to develop in individuals with certain risk factors that increase an individuals chance of developing gastric cancer.

The following factors may raise a person’s risk for developing gastric cancer:2,3

  • Age. Stomach cancer occurs most commonly in people older than 55. Most people diagnosed with stomach cancer are in their 60s and 70s.
  • Gender. Men are twice as likely to develop stomach cancer as women.
  • Race/ethnicity. Stomach cancer is more common in black, Hispanic, and Asian people than in white people.
  • Tobacco. Using any form of tobacco: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff increases the risk of gastric cancer.
  • Alcohol. Heavy drinking over a long period of time increases the risk of developing gastric cancer
  • Obesity. Being severely overweight and having too much body fat can increase a person’s risk.
  • Bacteria. Helicobacter pylori, also called H. pylori, causes stomach inflammation and ulcers. It is also considered one of the primary causes of stomach cancer. Testing for H. pylori is available and an infection can be treated with antibiotics.1
  • Family history/genetics. People who have a parent, child, or sibling who has had gastric cancer are at increased risk. In addition, certain inherited genetic disorders may increase the risk of gastric cancer.
  • Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC)
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Diet. Eating a diet high in salt has been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. This includes foods preserved by drying, smoking, salting, or pickling and foods high in added salt.
  • Previous surgery or health conditions. People who have had stomach surgery, pernicious anemia, or achlorhydria have a higher risk of stomach cancer.
  • Occupational exposure. Exposure to certain dusts and fumes may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.

Next: Diagnosis & Tests for Gastric Cancer

References:

1 Fuccio L, Zagari RM, Eusebi LH et al. Meta-analysis: can Helicobacter pylori eradication treatment reduce the risk for gastric cancer? Annals of Internal Medicine. 2009;151:121-8.

2 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2017.

3 https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/stomach-cancer/symptoms-and-signs