Stomach (gastric) cancer symptoms may be unrecognizable in the cancer’s early stages. Symptoms may not appear initially, and if they do, they often seem unrelated to cancer. Some stomach cancer symptoms are shared by more common conditions like ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and gastroenteritis. For this reason, it’s important to promptly speak with a physician if potential symptoms of stomach cancer develop to determine their root cause and find appropriate treatment.
Mild to moderate stomach cancer symptoms
Signs and symptoms of early-stage stomach cancer are often mild. They may include:
- Discomfort or pain in the stomach area, usually above the navel
- Difficulty swallowing
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained nausea
- Feeling full or bloated after a small meal
- A sensation of food getting stuck in the throat while eating
Severe stomach cancer symptoms
As stomach cancer progresses, symptoms may become more severe and include:
- Weakness or fatigue
- Vomiting, with or without blood
- Blood in stool
- Unexplained weight loss
Stomach cancer symptoms by stage
Stage 0 Stomach Cancer Symptoms
Cancer specialists will assign this stage to stomach cancer when they’ve identified abnormal cells within the inner layer of the stomach but haven’t detected abnormalities anywhere else in the body.
Stage 1 Stomach Cancer Symptoms
There are two circumstances that can cause stomach cancer to be classified as Stage 1:
- If it has spread from the stomach’s inner layer to its second layer (submucosa) and up to six lymph nodes
- If it has spread to the stomach’s muscular layer (subserosa) but not to any lymph nodes or nearby organs
Stage 2 Stomach Cancer Symptoms
Stomach cancer can be assigned this stage in three different situations:
- If it has spread to the submucosa and between seven to 15 lymph nodes
- If it has spread to the subserosa and up to six lymph nodes
- If it has spread to the outer layer of the stomach (serosa) but not to any lymph nodes or nearby organs
Stage 3 Stomach Cancer Symptoms
Stomach cancer will be classified as Stage 3 under the following two circumstances:
- If it has spread to the subserosa and between seven to 15 lymph nodes
- If it has spread to nearby organs but not to any nearby lymph nodes or distant organs
Stage 4 Stomach Cancer Symptoms
Stomach cancer will be considered Stage 4 (also called metastatic stomach cancer) in any of the following three situations:
- If it has spread to more than 15 lymph nodes
- If it has spread to nearby organs and one or more lymph nodes
- If it has spread to distant organs within the body
If stomach cancer has spread to another area of the body (metastasized), it may cause additional symptoms specific to that area. For instance, when stomach cancer spreads to the lungs, it can cause difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and coughing. It’s important for patients who are experiencing any symptoms of stomach cancer to seek medical attention, especially if they persist for an extended period of time or worsen. Check out our Questions You Should Ask Your Stomach Cancer Specialist guide.
Our approach to stomach cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program is led by a multispecialty team that specializes in all aspects of stomach cancer care, including diagnosis, treatment and support. Designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, Moffitt offers progressive stomach cancer treatment options and spearheads innovative clinical trials to improve the way stomach cancers are diagnosed and treated. And as a high-volume cancer center with specialists who focus exclusively on gastrointestinal malignancies, we address the most uncommon and complex cases of stomach cancer on a routine basis.
Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online if you would like to speak with a Moffitt oncologist about potential stomach cancer symptoms or our treatment options. We are providing every new patient with rapid access to a cancer expert within a day, which is faster than any other cancer hospital in the country.