If you’ve been experiencing more belching than usual or notice that you’re feeling fuller than normal when eating, you may wonder if it’s normal or if it’s a sign of something more serious.
We’ll look at belching, what causes it, and whether it’s ever linked to cancer.
Belching is another word for burping and refers to the act of releasing air from the stomach through the mouth. It’s a way for the body to get rid of extra air from your digestive system. The air you release contains oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.
Belching that happens because of swallowed air can be caused by:
- eating too fast
- drinking too fast
- drinking a lot of carbonated beverages
- chewing gum
Belching is often accompanied by bloating or belly discomfort usually caused by the things listed above. Belching is usually due to one of the above causes and isn’t often a sign of something more serious.
Most of the time, belching isn’t a sign of cancer. However, when belching occurs along with other symptoms, it may be a cause for concern.
Other symptoms to watch for include:
- unintended weight loss
- loss of appetite
- problems with swallowing
- feeling full quickly
- feeling more tired than usual
These symptoms, along with excessive belching, can be a sign of certain types of cancer, including:
- stomach cancer
- esophageal cancer
- pancreatic cancer
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms in addition to excessive belching, reach out to your healthcare provider.
Excessive belching doesn’t always mean a cancer diagnosis. Other causes of excessive belching include:
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection
H. pylori is a type of bacteria commonly found in the digestive tract. Sometimes, it can attack the lining of the stomach. This causes uncomfortable symptoms that may include excessive belching or stomach ulcers.
This is a rare disorder where large amounts of air are swallowed following a meal.
Aerophagia refers to the repetitive swallowing of excessive air. Swallowing extra air can cause abdominal discomfort, bloating, and excessive belching to get rid of the air.
Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of your stomach. Gastritis can be caused by many things, including H. pylori infection, irritation of the thin lining of the stomach by digestive juices, or excessive alcohol intake.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up the esophagus, causing burning pain. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux.
Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
Left untreated, GERD can lead to serious complications and other conditions such as esophagitis, esophageal cancer, and asthma.
When you experience excessive belching with other worrisome symptoms, it can be helpful in diagnosing more serious conditions like cancer. Remember, excessive belching as a single symptom doesn’t necessarily mean cancer is present.
In order to diagnose conditions related to excessive belching (including cancer), your doctor may order the following tests:
- CT scan. A CT scan is a type of imaging that takes cross-sectional pictures of a particular area of the body. In an abdominal CT scan, you are able to see all the organs in your abdominal area.
- Endoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube into your mouth and down your esophagus while you’re sedated. The doctor can then see into your stomach and can take biopsies if needed.
- Barium swallow study. This special type of X-ray is taken after you drink barium, which lights up certain areas of your GI tract.
Treatment for excessive belching will depend on the cause. When belching is caused by something that’s not serious, lifestyle changes are often all that is needed to get rid of it. These changes can include:
- taking a walk after eating
- avoiding carbonated beverages and chewing gum
- trying to eat and drink more slowly
If your excessive belching is related to a cancer diagnosis, treatments may include:
The type of treatment you receive will depend on the kind of cancer you have and whether it’s spread to other parts of your body. Your overall health will also be a factor in treatment decisions.
Excessive belching can be a sign of certain types of cancers, including esophageal, pancreatic, and stomach. However, more often than not, excessive belching is caused by less serious, highly treatable conditions.
If you’re experiencing excessive belching along with other concerning symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.