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Stomach Cancer Awareness

By Dustin Wallace, M.D.


Stomach cancer mostly affects older people, with the average age at diagnosis being 68. It’s estimated that over 26,000 people will be diagnosed this year, with nearly 11,000 of those dying as a result. Stomach cancer has decreased greatly in the past century in the United States, most likely due to increased use of antibiotics for all types of infections. Antibiotics kill the bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H pylori), which is thought to be a major cause of stomach cancer.

While the number of those affected by stomach cancer has decreased, the mortality rate is alarming. Early-stage stomach cancer rarely causes symptoms, which is why it’s so hard to detect early. Many of the symptoms are more often caused by things other than cancer, such as a stomach virus or an ulcer.

The signs and symptoms of stomach cancer can include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss (without trying)
  • Abdominal (belly) pain or vague discomfort
  • A sense of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating a small meal
  • Heartburn, indigestion or nausea
  • Vomiting, with or without blood
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia)

These symptoms may also occur with other types of cancer. But if you or someone you know has any of these problems, especially if they don’t go away or get worse, get it checked out so the cause can be found and treated.

Since symptoms of stomach cancer often don’t appear until the disease is advanced, only about 1 in 5 stomach cancers in the United States is found at an early stage, before it has spread to other areas of the body.

Like most cancers, there’s no surefire way to prevent it but there a lots of things you can do to swing the odds in your favor.

  • Eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant foods. This includes vegetables and fruits, whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals instead of refined grains, and eating fish, poultry, or beans instead of processed meat and red meat.
  • Be physically active.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • If you think you’re at risk, see your gastroenterologist to get tested for H pylori infection and get treated.

Contact us for an appointment if you have any ongoing symptoms of stomach cancer. Early detection is key to successful treatment.


Dr. Dustin Wallace is board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology. He practices at Valley Gastroenterology Associates in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Source: American Cancer Society