Cancer doesn’t exactly have a kind reputation, however, stomach cancer has one of the worst reputations and is best known for being one of the more painful forms of cancer. For many sufferers, the pain is not one of the disease’s early warning signs.
In fact, the most common feature of stomach cancer’s early stages may be that there are no symptoms or hardly any symptoms at all, says Umut Sarpel, MD, an associate professor and surgical oncologist at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System.
“We all get stomach aches from time to time, and that can make people worry about stomach cancer,” says Dr. Sarpel. She goes on to say, “But it’s not one of the most common cancers, and in most cases, stomach aches or pain are not going to be a result of cancer.
So, just how common is stomach cancer, really? About 1 in 111 adults will develop stomach (gastric) cancer at some point in their lifetime, and the disease is more common in men, according to the American Cancer Society. Dr. Sarpel adds that a person’s risk for the disease goes up with age.
Stomach cancer is not a typically inherited disease. “The majority of gastric cancers are sporadic, or caused by random DNA mutations,” she says. While there are super rare genetic mutations associated with the disease, Dr. Sarpel says it’s not worth testing for that unless a lot of people in your family tree have had the disease.
So what should you be on the lookout for? These 6 symptoms
Blood in your Stool or Vomit
Not exactly a guarantee that if you have these symptoms you have stomach cancer, however, both colitis and Crohn’s disease can cause bloody stool. Blood in either your poop or your vomit demands a visit to a GI doctor, Dr. Sarpel says. If the bleeding is related to stomach cancer, the blood in your stool is likely to look maroon or tarry black. “It looks that way because it has been acted on by your digestive enzymes,” she explains. If the blood is in your vomit, it’s more like to look bright red, and it may have a coarse “coffee grounds” texture only because it has been partially digested.