A woman is holding her stomach
Recognizing the symptoms of stomach cancer early could potentially save your life.

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer (or gastric cancer) is one of the more uncommon forms of cancer, but unfortunately, it is also one of the most dangerous. This is because in its early stages, stomach cancer does not cause many symptoms, and its symptoms can easily be mistaken for something else. This means that by the time stomach cancer is discovered, it has often already spread to other parts of the body, making it much more difficult to treat.

10 Stomach Cancer Symptoms to Be Aware Of

Recognizing the symptoms of stomach cancer early could potentially save your life. Here is what to look out for and what to do if you notice any of these signs:

Heartburn or Indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion are caused by an excess of stomach acid irritating the stomach or coming up into the esophagus. They can cause a burning pain in the chest or stomach area and will usually be worse after eating. You may also find that you burp more than normal.

Heartburn and indigestion are very common and there are many different causes. Most of the time, these symptoms will be nothing to worry about, but if they go on for longer than three weeks, you should get them checked out, even if they seem to get better with medication.

Difficulty Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing is also known as dysphagia. You might get a burning sensation when you swallow or find that food gets stuck in your throat easily.

Dysphagia can be caused by a narrowing of the esophagus which is harmless, but it can also be an early symptom of stomach cancer. So if you are having difficulty swallowing, ask your doctor to investigate and see what is going on.

Abdominal Pain

One of the early symptoms of stomach cancer is a pain in the stomach area or under the breastbone. It might be there all the time or get worse after eating.

Abdominal pain is another symptom which can have many different causes and is most likely nothing serious. However, if you have persistent abdominal pain, you should ask your doctor to run some tests.

Nausea or Vomiting

If stomach cancer is blocking the part of your stomach which empties into your intestines, this can cause food to get stuck in your stomach making you feel sick (nausea) or be sick (vomiting).

There may be blood in the vomit which could either be bright red or dark brown. However, sometimes there may not be any noticeable bleeding.

Poor Appetite

As stomach cancer becomes more advanced and takes up more space in your stomach, you might find that you do not feel as hungry as normal, or that you get full very quickly. You might also find that you feel bloated and uncomfortable, even after only small meals.

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Unplanned Weight Loss

Cancer cells use up a lot of energy that would otherwise be used to build muscles or stored as fat. Additionally, if you are not eating as much as usual or being sick frequently, you might find that you begin to lose weight rapidly.

If you lose weight without changing your diet or exercise routine, it is important to find out why, so see your physician as soon as possible.

Abdominal Swelling

In the later stages of stomach cancer, fluid can collect in the abdomen causing lumpiness and swelling.

Bloody Bowel Movements

Another sign of advanced stomach cancer is blood in the stools. As this blood has traveled all the way from the stomach, it will have a black appearance. If the blood is fresh and red, it is more likely to have come from a tear in the large intestine or anus.

Certain medications such as iron can also cause the stools to change color, so check with your doctor if you are unsure.


Bleeding in the stomach can reduce the number of red blood cells in the blood, leading to anemia. The symptoms of anemia include pale skin, extreme tiredness, dizziness and shortness of breath.


If stomach cancer blocks your bile duct, you may develop jaundice. This is a build-up of bilirubin, a waste product formed when old red blood cells are broken down. Jaundice causes symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

Detecting Stomach Cancer Early

To find out whether stomach cancer is at the root of your digestive symptoms, you will need investigations such as an endoscopy and biopsy. This involves having a thin camera put down your throat, allowing doctors to look into your stomach and take a small tissue sample.

Since stomach cancer is quite uncommon, routine screening is not offered in most places. However, catching the cancer early will give you a much better chance of making a recovery. This is why it is important to be familiar with the symptoms of stomach cancer, and see your doctor if you have any of them for three weeks or more. The chances are it will be nothing serious, but there is only one way to know for sure.