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Symptoms of stomach cancer

The symptoms of stomach cancer can be quite vague. Symptoms can include

  • Indigestion, acidity and burping
  • Feeling full
  • Bleeding or tiredness and breathlessness because you have lost blood
  • Blood clots
  • Pain
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss (usually symptoms of a more advanced cancer)

The earliest symptoms are often acidity and burping. But these are symptoms of other stomach problems too. Most people who have long term indigestion and wind never develop cancer. Less than 1 in every 50 people going to the doctor with indigestion and burping will have cancer.


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Indigestion, acidity and burping

The earliest symptoms of stomach cancer are often acidity and burping. Many people diagnosed with stomach cancer have had symptoms like these for years. But they are symptoms of other stomach problems too. Most people who have long term indigestion and wind never develop cancer. Less than 1 in every 50 people going to the doctor with indigestion and burping have cancer.


Feeling full

Another early symptom can be feeling full up sooner than usual when eating your meals. If this leads to eating less over a period of time, you will start to lose weight.


Bleeding and feeling tired or breathless

Even early stomach cancers can bleed into the stomach. Losing blood over a period of time can make you anaemic. This means your red blood cell count is too low. Anaemia makes you look pale and feel tired. If you are very anaemic you may also feel breathless. Vomiting blood is not a common early symptom, but it can happen. If it does, the blood may not be clearly seen. The blood you bring up may be bright red, which means it is fresh bleeding. Or it may look dark brown, like used coffee grounds, if the blood has been in the stomach for a while.


Blood clots

People with stomach cancer are more likely to get blood clots. If you have pain or swelling in a leg or sudden chest pain and breathlessness, you could have a blood clot in your leg or lung. You should contact your doctor straight away because you will need immediate anti-clotting medicines.


Other symptoms

More than half of the people diagnosed with stomach cancer have either pain, sickness or some difficulty swallowing. The exact area of the pain can vary. It is most usually in the upper abdomen (tummy). Or you may have pain just under your breastbone (sternum) or slightly lower down.


Symptoms of advanced stomach cancer

Symptoms of a more advanced stomach cancer can include

Lack of appetite and weight loss

Losing your appetite and losing weight are often later symptoms and can be a sign that the cancer is more advanced. Although some people with early stomach cancer lose their appetite too.

Fluid in the abdomen

With an advanced cancer, it may be possible for your doctor to feel a lump in your tummy (abdomen). Some people with advanced stomach cancer develop fluid in the abdomen. This is called ascites.

Blood in your stool

Some stomach cancers bleed but don't make you vomit. The blood goes through your digestive system. This can make your bowel movements look black, like tar.


More information

The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. So it is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice worrying symptoms.

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Updated: 11 February 2014