Cancer of the stomach, also known as gastric cancer, occurs when healthy cells in the stomach become abnormal and multiply out of control. It is among the top causes for cancer-related deaths in the country. A tumor may be cancerous or benign. If the tumor in the stomach is cancerous, it is malignant and can spread to other parts of the body.
Early diagnosis of stomach cancer or gastric cancer is possible with careful observation of recurrent symptoms. Most of the symptoms are non-specific and hence ignored by many, thereby causing a delay in diagnosis. Stomach cancer rarely occurs below the age of 40 and is twice more likely to affect men than women.
In the initial stages of stomach cancer, the following are some of the most commonly occurring symptoms:
- Discomfort in the stomach
- Unexplained fatigue and weakness
- Frequent indigestion and heartburn
- Loss of appetite; no inclination to eat or drink despite routine lifestyle
- Bloated feeling in the stomach; feeling that one has too much gas
- Loss of interest to eat after a few mouthfuls; despite having a healthy appetite, one is unable to eat and feels full
- Difficulty to swallow
- Mild vomiting and nausea
- Recurrent burping
The above symptoms of stomach cancer can also indicate a stomach ulcer or viral infection and are often mistaken for conditions that can be cured easily. If one experiences any of the abovementioned symptoms, they should get it checked it with the doctor immediately.
In the advanced stages of stomach cancer, the following can also occur alongside the abovementioned symptoms:
- Vomiting, sometimes with blood
- Black stools indicating the presence of blood
- Pain in the stomach
- Loss of weight over a period of time without any diet or exercise
People who have any or combinations of the above symptoms are advised to visit the doctor without any delay. People who are above the age of 55 with persistent heartburn and/or indigestion should also visit their doctor for a consultation and necessary tests.
The doctor can order an endoscopy or an endoscopic ultrasound. These are the basic tests that can help diagnose this problem. If abnormal cells are found, a tissue sample is taken during the endoscopy and sent for a biopsy. The treatment is then prescribed on the basis of the stage and the health of the patient suffering from stomach cancer.