There are times when you should see a doctor immediately, especially if symptoms continue to recur or progress.

Early symptoms of stomach cancer often mimic symptoms of other common conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis, and peptic ulcers. This can make diagnosis difficult.

Stomach cancer symptoms include:

If you have another condition, such as GERD, you may want to talk with your doctor if your symptoms change.

It’s always better to lean on the side of caution. Early detection of stomach cancer can significantly increase treatment options and improvement your outlook.

Let’s explore the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer, risk factors, and when to talk with a doctor. We also discuss its diagnosis and frequently asked questions.

You may have different symptoms based on the stage of the cancer.

Early signs and symptoms

In the early stages of stomach cancer, symptoms may be subtler. They can be easily misunderstood for conditions like indigestion or stomach flu.

At this stage, you may experience:

  • persistent indigestion or heartburn
  • a sensation of fullness when eating small meals
  • mild, continuous stomach discomfort
  • pain, bloating, or nausea
  • fatigue and weakness

Later signs and symptoms

As stomach cancer advances, symptoms become increasingly severe and visible. These include:

According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for stomach cancer include:

  • Age: Age plays a significant role. Stomach cancer more commonly occurs in people ages 60–80 years.
  • Sex: Males have a higher likelihood of stomach cancer than females.
  • Ethnicity: Stomach cancer is more common in African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.
  • Location: People living in East Asia, Eastern Europe, and South and Central America report higher frequencies of this disease.
  • Family medical history: The risk increases if first degree relatives, like parents, children, or siblings, have had stomach cancer.
  • Behaviors: Smoking and consuming three or more alcoholic drinks daily can make you more susceptible to developing stomach cancer.
  • Obesity: You have a higher risk of stomach cancer if you have overweight or obesity.
  • Diet: You may have a higher risk if you regularly consume salted, preserved foods. These include fish, meat, vegetables, and charcoaled, grilled, or processed meats. Eating fresh fruits and raw vegetables decreases the risk.
  • H. pylori infection: Having an H. pylori infection for a prolonged time increases the risk of stomach ulcers and gastritis. These conditions increase the chance of stomach cancer.

Other risk factors include:

If you experience any symptoms that might indicate stomach cancer, it’s crucial to contact a health professional as soon as possible.

Even though other conditions may be causing your symptoms, it’s always better to get checked.

Since stomach cancer does not usually show clear symptoms in its early stages, doctors recommend having regular checkups if you have a higher risk of stomach cancer.

Typically, a healthcare professional performs a gastroscopy to diagnose stomach cancer. It’s a type of endoscopy.

During this test, a healthcare professional inserts a long, thin, flexible tube with a small camera into your mouth, throat, and abdomen. This allows them to see inside your stomach, identify any abnormalities, and take tissue samples if needed.

This tissue sample, or biopsy, is then sent to a lab for examination under a microscope to check for cancer.

An endoscopy is not usually painful but may feel uncomfortable. Your healthcare professional may apply sedation or numbing in your throat to help you relax.

You may also need blood tests and imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans. These help your doctor confirm the diagnosis and know whether the cancer is spreading.

Here are some frequently asked questions about stomach cancer.

What are the first warning signs of stomach cancer?

Early warning signs of stomach cancer often include:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • persistent indigestion
  • stomach discomfort
  • feeling full after eating small meals

Does stomach cancer progress quickly?

Stomach cancer usually grows slowly and progressively over several years, often without symptoms during the early stages.

However, once symptoms appear, it may indicate the cancer has advanced.

Is stomach cancer an aggressive cancer?

Yes, stomach cancer can be aggressive. It often progresses slowly at first within the stomach lining. If untreated, it can form a tumor, grow deeper into the stomach walls, and spread to nearby organs.

What does cancer pain feel like in your stomach?

Stomach cancer pain may feel like a continuous, dull ache in the upper abdomen. It’s often mistaken for common indigestion. The pain could be associated with discomfort after eating small meals.

Can stomach cancer kill you?

Yes, stomach cancer can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.

According to the American Cancer Society, stomach cancer that has spread to distant organs has a 5-year survival rate of 6%. Early stage stomach cancer that has not spread has a 5-year survival rate of 72%.

Can stomach cancer be cured?

Yes, stomach cancer can potentially be cured, especially when detected and treated early.

Stomach cancer symptoms are various and can mimic other less-threatening conditions. It’s recommended to visit a doctor immediately if you have symptoms that do not go away after a few days.