Sneaky Signs Of Stomach Cancer You Shouldn't Ignore

As one of the top four leading causes of cancer-related deaths, stomach cancer is among the most aggressive and life-threatening of cancers, according to 2022 research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Five-year survival rates for stomach cancer stand at about 20%, although some experts report this number to be closer to 36%, according to the National Cancer Institute. Knowing the potentially more subtle signs of stomach cancer can help aid in early detection efforts.

Early detection can be challenging, however, as stomach cancer symptoms aren't always obvious. For many, the disease is often asymptomatic at the start. In some cases, early signs can look a lot like your everyday gastrointestinal symptoms. This includes heartburn, indigestion, loss of appetite, a hint of nausea, or feeling bloated following a meal. People with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), obesity, or a type of bacterial infection known as H. pylori infection may be more prone to gastric cancer. Those who smoke, drink alcohol, get little exercise, or eat an excess of salty and smoked foods may also be at an increased risk.

Potential signs of advanced stomach cancer

Most often, stomach cancer affects middle-aged to older adults, according to a 2004 case report published in the scientific journal Gastric Cancer. However, the researchers outlined a rare case of stomach cancer in a 13-year-old girl who began experiencing weakness, fatigue, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, unusual pain during her period, and quickly becoming full when eating. Such symptoms emerged over the course of two months. The teenager reported that during this time she had not experienced bloating or nausea, two of the more common symptoms of the early stages of symptomatic stomach cancer. Rather, many of her symptoms were indicative of more advanced stages of gastric cancer. Later-stage symptoms can include trouble swallowing, unexplained weight loss, and stomach pain, as well as jaundice, blood in one's stool, vomiting, and more.

This case report demonstrates how the disease often presents as asymptomatic during earlier stages. Presently, routine stomach cancer screenings have not been established in the U.S., as these tests are still in development. For high-risk patients, an upper endoscopy procedure may alternatively be suggested. Speak to your doctor if you believe you may be at an increased risk for stomach cancer or if you develop any persistent gastrointestinal symptoms.