Dr. Ashwin Rajagopal, Consultant – Surgical Oncology, Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Manipal Hospital Varthur Road, Whitefield
Gastric cancer is also called stomach cancer. It is a condition in which the cancerous cells grow and multiply in the lining of the stomach. The symptoms are masked in the earlier stages and it is diagnosed only in the latter stages of the disease when it spreads to other parts of the body.
Stomach cancer is tricky to diagnose as the symptoms are similar to gastrointestinal disorders. The five early warning signs of gastric cancer are as follows:
Bloating is a feeling of fullness or tightness around the belly. The belly may appear swollen and there is an urge to pass gas. Over multiplication of cells in the stomach lining makes the walls rigid and reduces their capacity to store food. When cancer spreads to the abdomen it accumulates fluid in the abdominal cavity making your stomach look bigger.
2. Heartburn is not reduced with medications
Heartburn in the chest after a meal or on lying down at the night may be due to gastric cancer. There will be an acidic taste in the mouth and the symptoms may not get better with over-the-counter medication. This happens when the acid from the stomach flows back through the food pipe. This is a common symptom of acid reflux and it is difficult to distinguish from stomach cancer.
3. Persistent nausea and projectile vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are the common symptoms of other minor health problems. Persistent nausea and projectile vomiting are the major indications of gastric cancer. Vomiting blood indicates an advanced stage of cancer. It can also be due to peptic ulcers and other gastrointestinal disturbances. Immediate consultation with a doctor may rule out medical complications.
4. Persistent upper abdominal burning pain after taking food
Persistent upper abdominal burning pain after taking food is a sign of stomach cancer. The acid in the stomach flows back to the food pipe and damages it in case of cancer. The food taken irritates the layer of the stomach and causes excruciating pain.
5. Passing black coloured stools (Melena)
The damage to the mucosal layer of the stomach leads to bleeding. This makes the stools black coloured also called melena. This indicates the severity of the condition. It may also be due to minor gastrointestinal problems.
The symptoms are difficult to distinguish between normal gastrointestinal problems from gastric cancer. CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, and biopsy are different tests to identify stomach cancer. It is recommended to consult your doctor at the earliest when you observe any of the symptoms persistently for a longer time. We in Manipal Hospital Varthur road, Whitefield treat stomach cancer through surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. Precaution is always better than cure, early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to better health.