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Early-stage stomach cancer (gastric cancer) rarely causes symptoms. In countries where screening for stomach cancer is not routine, such as the United States, most stomach cancers aren’t found until they’ve grown fairly large or have spread outside the stomach.
When stomach cancer does cause signs and symptoms, they can include:
Weight loss (without trying)
Abdominal (belly) pain
Vague discomfort in the abdomen, usually above the navel
Feeling full after eating only a small meal
Heartburn or indigestion
Vomiting, with or without blood
Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
Blood in the stool
Feeling tired or weak, as a result of having too few red blood cells (anemia)
Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), if the cancer spreads to the liver
Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by things other than stomach cancer, such as a viral infection or an ulcer. Some of these symptoms may also be caused by other types of cancer. But people who have any of these problems, especially if they don’t go away or get worse, should see a doctor so the cause can be found and treated, if needed.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Ku GY, Ilson DH. Chapter 72: Cancer of the Stomach. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.
Mansfield PF. Clinical features, diagnosis, and staging of gastric cancer. UpToDate. 2020. Accessed at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/clinical-features-diagnosis-and-staging-of-gastric-cancer on June 29, 2020.
National Cancer Institute. Gastric Cancer Treatment (PDQ®). 2020. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/stomach/patient/stomach-treatment-pdq on June 29, 2020.
Last Revised: January 22, 2021
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