March 03, 2022

Heartburn or Stomach Cancer? Early Warning Signs.

Man holds his stomach in discomfort

If you experience a kind of stomach pain you haven’t had before, you might wonder if it’s heartburn or a more serious condition like stomach cancer. It’s good that you’re paying attention to your body and important that you contact your doctor if that pain recurs frequently or doesn’t go away.

It may be a minor issue, but your doctor can diagnose it and prescribe treatment if it’s needed.

Stomach Cancer Symptoms

In its early stages, stomach cancer generally doesn’t cause any symptoms. If it does produce any signs, they tend to be vague and can include:

Typically, stomach cancer isn’t found until a gastric tumor has gotten large, or cancer has spread to organs or areas outside of the stomach. At that point, it may cause:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Nausea 
  • Abdominal pain and/or discomfort
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Feeling full after eating, even with small meals
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Vomiting (with or without blood)
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal swelling or fluid build-up
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) if the liver has been affected

Other conditions can cause symptoms like those of stomach cancer. They include peptic ulcers (damage to the intestinal tract caused by stomach acid) and acid reflux, which is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD (where stomach acid backs up into and damages the esophagus). 

While those conditions are less serious than stomach cancer, you shouldn’t assume you have one of them. If you experience any symptoms that might be caused by stomach cancer, you should talk with your doctor. 

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Stomach Cancer Risk Factors

Several factors can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer. Some, like your gender, age, or inherited cancer syndromes, you can’t control. Others, you can, including:

  • Tobacco use
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Poor diet (including eating grilled or charcoaled meats regularly and not eating enough fruits and vegetables)

Stomach cancer can’t be prevented. However, by addressing the risk factors above and others you may learn about from your doctor, you can decrease your risk of developing it. And if you do, you increase the chances that any stomach-related symptoms you experience are caused by other issues.  

Learn About Cancer Care Services at Baptist Health

If you have questions or concerns about stomach cancer or have been diagnosed with any type of cancer, learn more about our world-class cancer care services at Baptist Health. Our skilled and compassionate providers use advanced treatments to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. You can find a provider near you by using our online provider directory.

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider
Take a Free Cancer Risk Assessment
Understanding How Cancer Can Spread
Why Does My Stomach Hurt?
Why Can I Feel My Heartbeat in My Stomach?

Learn More.