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Gastric cancer occurs when the cells that make up the lining of the stomach change so that they grow more than they should. Gastric cancer can spread and affect the glands or lymph nodes nearby, as well as spreading directly, through the blood stream or within the abdominal cavity to other organs around the body. Gastric cancer can cause a variety of symptoms which are explained below.

6 Gastric cancer.jpg

Image credit: Cancer Research UK Uploader (2015)

Heartburn or pain

Patients may experience heartburn or indigestion type feelings, with a burning sensation in the top of the tummy or abdomen, or behind their breast bone. However, this is a very common symptom in people in general, not just people with oesophageal cancer, with up to 20% of the population suffering indigestion symptoms each week.

Some report pain in the upper abdomen, particularly after eating or drinking.

Bleeding and anaemia

Cancer in the stomach can bleed. Sometimes this bleeding is slow and it cannot be seen. It may, however, cause enough blood loss that a person becomes anaemic. This may cause a feeling of tiredness and lethargy, and a person may get out of breath more easily than normal. In other patients, cancer can cause more noticeable bleeding which may resulting in vomiting up blood, or a patient's stool (or faeces) may turn very dark, smelly and become sticky like tar.

Poor appetite and weight loss

Non-specific but relatively common symptoms of gastric cancer include having a poor appetite, not wanting to eat, and unintentionally losing weight.

Fullness with small meals

Sometimes people with gastric cancer find they cannot eat a normal sized meal, and they feel full after eating only a small amount of food.