Stomach cancer is also known as gastric cancer. It usually starts in the cells in the stomach. These cells function to produce mucus and cancer that originates from much producing cells is known as an adenocarcinoma (a type of cancer that originates from mucus secreting cells). There are several different types of stomach cancer, but adenocarcinoma makes up for about 90-95% of it. While the rates of cancer for the body of the stomach has been decreasing in the past decades, cancer at the gastroesophageal junction (the area where the esophagus meets the stomach) has increased quite dramatically. It can take several years for stomach cancer to develop.
There are often pre-cancerous changes that occur in the lining of the stomach and are often undetected. Depending on where the cancer is located in the stomach, the symptoms may differ for each individual. The location will also affect the treatment for stomach cancer.
Symptom #1: Heartburn
In the early stages of stomach cancer, there may be frequent indigestion or heartburn. This is described as a burning sensation. However, this is not a characteristic symptom as there are many individuals who have indigestion from other conditions such as hiatal hernia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or simply from eating too much.
It occurs when acid in the stomach regurgitates into the esophagus and sometimes into the oral cavity causing irritation to the throat and can lead to a sore throat and cough. Less than 2% of those referred for an endoscopy for indigestion has stomach cancer. While heartburn can be caused by many different conditions, it is also a symptom of stomach cancer.