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Gastric cancer symptoms often appear vague at first and may initially respond to treatments for other conditions, delaying eventual diagnosis. They can include fatigue, nausea, and changes in bowel habits. Many gastric cancers are treatable and the prognosis for the patient can be good if the problem is caught early. Patients seeking care for symptoms involving the gastrointestinal tract should detail the symptoms and provide as much information as possible about family history to increase the chances of identifying gastric cancers early.
People with gastric cancers often notice that they feel more tired than usual and they can develop anemia. Bloody stool can occur, suggestive of inflammation in the intestines. The stool may also grow loose and can change in color or texture over time. Gastric cancer symptoms can include increasing bowel urgency or the opposite symptom, where patients need to use the bathroom less.
Nausea and vomiting, along with weight loss, are also warning signs of gastric cancer. Gastric cancer symptoms may involve tenderness and pain in the abdomen, as well as abdominal bloating. Heartburn may occur and patients can experience decreased appetite. The symptoms may initially be mistaken as a passing stomach flu or mild intestinal irritation, especially if people are stressed, have recently traveled, or have changed their diets. Over time, the symptoms can become more severe.
It is important to be aware that not all gastric cancer symptoms will appear in every patient. Some patients, for example, never vomit, or do not experience significant abdominal tenderness until the end stages of disease. The vague symptoms can lead patients and care providers on a wild goose chase with tests for infections, ulcers, and other issues before the cancer is finally identified. Patients with a family history of gastric cancers are at increased risk and should make sure this is noted during examinations.
Once gastric cancer symptoms are positively identified and a tumor is located, treatment options vary. Sometimes surgery can be used to excise the tumor. Patients may also respond well to chemotherapy and radiation. The prognosis depends on the size, type, and location of the cancer when it is first diagnosed. Seeing a specialist can provide access to more treatments, in addition to allowing patients to receive care from someone with a lot of experience in this area who may have better patient outcomes as a result of extensive familiarity with gastric cancers and their associated complications.
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