Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

Early-stage stomach cancer rarely causes symptoms. This is one of the reasons stomach cancer is so hard to detect early. The signs and symptoms of stomach cancer can include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss (without trying)
  • Abdominal (belly) pain
  • Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
  • A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting, with or without blood
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia)

Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by things other than cancer, such as a stomach virus or an ulcer. They may also occur with other types of cancer. But people who have any of these problems, especially if they don’t go away or get worse, should check with their doctor so the cause can be found and treated.

Since symptoms of stomach cancer often do not appear until the disease is advanced, only about 1 in 5 stomach cancers in the United States is found at an early stage, before it has spread to other areas of the body.

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Gunderson LL, Donohue JH, Alberts SR, Ashman JB, Jaroszewski DE. Cancer of the Stomach and Gastroesophageal Junction. In: Niederhuber, JE, Armitage, JO, Doroshow, JH, Kastan, MB, Tepper, JE, eds. In Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2014:1240-1270.

National Cancer Institute. Physician Data Query (PDQ). Gastric Cancer Screening. 3/10/2017. Accessed at on November 27, 2017.

Last Medical Review: December 1, 2017 Last Revised: December 14, 2017

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