Stomach cancer: early warning signs

It’s one of the more common cancers in Australia and, though rare in people under 50 years of age, its early warning signs may seem harmless but the disease can lead to a painful death.

Stomach cancer usually occurs in the upper intestine, then works its way through the body to take over essential organs such as the liver, lungs and, eventually, the bones.

More common in men than women, gastric cancer is also more prevalent in people who have had stomach surgery, and those with family members who’ve also had the disease.

Other factors that can increase the risk of stomach cancer include:

  • smoking
  • age over 50
  • being infected by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori – a cause of duodenal and gastric ulcers which affects over 30 per cent of the world’s population
  • eating lots of smoked, pickled and salted foods
  • not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables
  • having had a partial gastrectomy for ulcer disease.


In its early stages, stomach cancer can be difficult to detect. In fact, its symptoms are as quite innocuous. These include:

  • a burning sensation in the abdomen
  • stomach pain
  • heartburn or indigestion.


So, if you experience any of these symptoms for a short while, you may be in the clear. However, if any of the following symptoms occur, you should see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • feeling full, even if you only eat a little meal
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • bloating
  • unexplained fatigue or weakness
  • vomiting blood
  • black or very dark-coloured faeces.


What can you do to prevent getting stomach cancer?

Eating lots more fresh fruit and vegetables and a lot less smoked, pickled and salty foods will certainly help your cause. If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, it’s best to cut back or quit altogether; and if you’re overweight, best get your weight in check.


Related articles:
Cancer can be a result of bad luck
Why do blood groups matter?
Pancreatic cancer explained

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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