In its early stage, stomach cancer has no specific symptoms. Both doctors and patients tend to dismiss any symptoms, often for months. Clues to the presence of stomach cancer include:
- Feeling full after a large meal, which is more likely if the cancer is blocking the region where the stomach empties into the intestines
- Pain, which may suggest peptic ulcer
- Loss of weight or strength due to not getting enough nutrients
Bleeding is rare, but it may cause anemia (low blood count). Occasionally the first symptom of stomach cancer is evidence of its having spread to other organs. This may lead to an enlarged liver, jaundice, fluid accumulation in the spaces between tissues and organs in the abdominal cavity, skin nodules and bone fractures.
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of stomach cancer is not yet known. Gastric ulcers are sometimes thought to lead to cancer. H. pylori, a bacteria that causes ulcers, may be a factor leading to stomach cancer.
Gastritis and intestinal metaplasia of the gastric mucosa are often found but are generally thought to be a result, rather than an early sign, of gastric cancer. Persons who have ulcers of the duodenum (the connection between the lower part of the stomach and the intestines) generally have a lower risk of getting stomach cancer.