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Stomach Cancer

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What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer?

In the early stages of stomach cancer, you may have very few symptoms. These may include:

  • Indigestion and stomach discomfort
  • A bloated feeling after eating
  • Mild nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heartburn

These symptoms are similar to those caused by a peptic ulcer. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should see your health care provider so that a proper diagnosis can be made and timely treatment given. A stomach cancer can grow very large before it causes other symptoms.

In more advanced cancer, you may have:

  • Discomfort in the upper or middle part of the abdomen.
  • Blood in the stool (which appears as black, tarry stools).
  • Vomiting or vomiting blood.
  • Weight loss.
  • Pain or bloating in the stomach after eating.
  • Weakness or fatigue associated with mild anemia (a deficiency in red blood cells).

How Is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?

Your health care provider can often detect advanced stomach cancer by performing a physical exam. He or she may find enlarged lymph nodes, an enlarged liver, increased fluid in the abdomen (ascites), or abdominal lumps felt during a rectal exam.

However, if you are having vague symptoms, such as indigestion, weight loss, nausea, and loss of appetite, screening tests may be recommended. These tests may include:

  • Upper GI series . These are X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the intestine taken after you drink a barium solution. The barium outlines the stomach on the X-ray, which helps the doctor, using special imaging equipment, to find tumors or other abnormal areas.
  • Gastroscopy and biopsy. This test examines the esophagus and stomach using a thin, lighted tube called a gastroscope, which is passed through the mouth to the stomach. Through the gastroscope, the doctor can look directly at the inside of the stomach. If an abnormal area is found, the doctor will remove some tissue (biopsy) to be examined under a microscope. A biopsy is the only sure way to diagnose cancer. Gastroscopy and biopsy are the best methods of identifying stomach cancer.

Once stomach cancer is diagnosed, more tests may be done to determine if the cancer has spread. These tests may include CT scans, PET scans, bone scans, laparoscopy and endoscopic ultrasound.

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