6 (early) symptoms of stomach cancer

Stomach cancer causes few symptoms and these symptoms are not very specific. Pain, weight loss… When should you worry? Are the symptoms the same in women and men?

stomach cancer causes few specific symptomsmainly at the onset of the disease. As the tumor grows, it may cause other symptoms that are needed exams to make a diagnosis. What Symptoms May Indicate Stomach Cancer? When to worry? What investigations should be performed according to the clinical manifestations? Lighting with Pr Frédérique Peschaud, visceral surgeon and Digestion at Ambroise-Paré Hospital (APHP-Paris Saclay University).

1. Pain in the stomach cavity

a epigastric pain (called epigastralgia) – pain in the upper part of the stomach, between the sternum and the navel – could be a sign ofan ulcer. The ulcer corresponds to a loss of substance at the level of the inner layer of the stomach, it can be favored by a bacteria (Helicobacter pylori) and it is one of the risk factors for stomach cancer“, describes Professor Frédérique Peschaud. Pain resembles cramps or a painful feeling of hunger. THE pain in the epigastrium increases as the tumor develops. But watch out, it’s there patients who have stomach cancer and have no pain“, specifies our interlocutor.

Diagram of a stomach tumor © designua – 123RF

2. Unexplained weight loss

A loss of appetite and weight, which are obviously not voluntary, may indicate stomach cancer“, our specialist indicates. Keep in mind that weight loss is not a specific sign of stomach cancer and can be indicative of a wide variety of causes. If the doctor suspects stomach cancer, he writes a endoscopy (or gastric fibroscopy) that allows the examination of the entire internal surface of the upper digestive system (esophagus, stomach, duodenum) to detect the presence of lesions or ulcers. “It is an examination that is performed on an outpatient basis, usually under local anesthesia and is bit painful. If endoscopy reveals a suspicious lesion, a biopsy is analyzed under a microscope. The examination makes it possible to know whether the cells that make up the detected lesion are normal or cancerous.

3. Severe fatigue

A patient with stomach cancer is usually very tired. On the other hand, fatigue does not necessarily mean the presence of cancer. It is a non-specific symptom found in other pathologies“, Professor Peschaud wants to recover.

4. Anemia

Anemia can warn and sometimes reveal its presence stomach polyp. Anemia is one abnormal drop in hemoglobin in the blood. Typical signs of anemia are pallor (pale, white skin colour), shortness of breath without particular exertion and persistent tiredness. If you have these symptoms, do this a blood test that measures the hemoglobin level in the blood“, recommends Professor Peschaud. In case of low hemoglobin levels, it may be necessary to perform a digestive endoscopy to explore the digestive tract and detect the possible presence of a polyp. A polyp can cause chronic microbleeds that go unnoticed. “Again, let’s insist on thatanemia is not specific for stomach cancerthe causes of anemia are multiple“, supports the expert.

5. Difficulty swallowing

As cancer progresses, it can lead to cancer dysphagia (difficulty or inability to swallow certain foods and drinks, the feeling that the food is stuck…). Dysphagia is also more suggestive of esophageal cancer (part of the digestive tract that connects the pharynx to the stomach) or the esophageal-gastric transition (connection between the esophagus and the stomach). Because the esophagus is a narrow tube, the presence of a tumor can alert the patient more easily, compared to a tumor growing in the stomach, which is a larger organ.“, explains our specialist.

6. Gastrointestinal Bleeding (For Advanced Cancer)

Digestive bleeding can be one of the signs of stomach cancer. But there are plenty of other possible causes. We should be reassured by saying that digestive bleeding is far from the first sign of stomach cancer. If there is bleeding, the cancer is at an advanced stage“, describes Professor Peschaud. A digestive hemorrhage corresponds to a bleeding in the digestive tract that can manifest itself par vomiting blood, blood in the stool or by the release of red blood from the anus.

Are the symptoms the same in women and men?

Yes, the symptoms are pretty much the same in women or men“ our interlocutor replies.

Can stomach cancer be asymptomatic?

Yes, stomach cancer can be detected casual waywithout the patient showing symptoms“, notes Professor Peschaud.

Thanks to Pr Frédérique Peschaud, visceral and digestive surgeon at Ambroise-Paré Hospital (APHP-Paris Saclay University)


French National Association of Gastroenterology, SNFGE

– National Cancer Institute

– Stomach cancer, ARC Foundation

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