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When is Chronic Indigestion a Sign of Stomach Cancer?

When is Chronic Indigestion a Sign of Stomach Cancer?

Knowing the symptoms of cancer is very important since it can help people get tested and seek treatment as soon as possible. And one symptom that people worry about is if indigestion is a sign of cancer.

What is indigestion?

Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a condition characterized by pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. As the name implies, it usually occurs after a person drinks or eats.

Indigestion usually occurs as a result of stomach acids coming in contact with the lining of the digestive system.

Normally, mucus protects the lining of the stomach from these acids. However, if an illness or condition causes the mucus to break down, then a person can start to experience it.

The symptoms of indigestion can vary from person to person, but the most common symptom is pain in the abdomen.

Here are some other possible symptoms of indigestion:

  • A feeling of fullness or being bloated
  • Nausea or feeling the need to vomit
  • Regurgitating or feeling food travel upward
  • Belching or burping

Indigestion usually happens if a person eats too much food too fast, or if a person has GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disorder. However, indigestion can sometimes be a sign that a person has cancer.

GERD: All You Need to Know

What types of cancer can cause indigestion?

Now that we know what indigestion is, and what it means, let’s talk about what types of cancer can cause indigestion.

Here are four types of cancer that usually have indigestion among their symptoms.

Pancreatic cancer

As the name implies, pancreatic cancer is a type of cancer that affects your pancreas. Your pancreas is responsible for producing bile, which helps aid in your digestion.

If you have pancreatic cancer, then it is possible that tumors can block the ducts that take bile to the stomach. This in turn can result in inflammation, as well as indigestion and other digestive problems.

Some other common symptoms include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite

If you experience the symptoms listed above, be sure to get in touch with your doctor.

Esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer refers to a cancer in the throat. It can sometimes be the result of having chronic heartburn, or GERD.

Esophageal cancer can make swallowing food difficult, and it can also affect the upper digestive tract, which can trigger indigestion.

Here are some other possible symptoms of esophageal cancer:

  • Chronic heartburn or GERD
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Indigestion
  • Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
  • Food feels stuck when you try to swallow

Stomach cancer

Stomach cancer (or gastric cancer) is another type of cancer that can cause indigestion. It is also one of the most common cancers that affect the gastro-intestinal or GI tract.

Additionally, it is also the fourth most common type of cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

Typically, older people are mostly affected by this form of cancer, but it can also affect younger people.

What makes gastric cancer particularly dangerous is that the symptoms of gastric cancer are not always evident. Sometimes, they can be mistaken for other health problems such as a stomachache, indigestion, GERD, or a stomach ulcer.

Additionally, the early stages of stomach cancer usually do not show any outward symptoms. So it could be possible that someone might already be in the latter stages without even noticing.

Aside from indigestion, here are some of the possible symptoms of stomach cancer:

  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, or vomiting up food after eating
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting blood
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fatigue

If you experience any of these chronic symptoms, it would be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor.

At the very least, your doctor can figure out what could be causing your symptoms, and it won’t hurt to get tested for cancer just to make sure.

Early detection is vital when it comes to cancer, so you should not hesitate to get tested if you feel anything wrong.

Could Persistent Diarrhea be a Symptom of Cancer?

Is indigestion a sign of cancer?

Now that we know what indigestion is, we can now start looking into how to tell if indigestion is a sign of cancer.

The answer to this question is yes and no.

Yes, because some types of cancer can and do cause indigestion as a symptom. No, because cancer is not the only cause for indigestion, and a number of other health problems can cause indigestion.

One problem with relying on indigestion as the sole symptom of cancer is that indigestion can be caused by a number of things. A person could have stomach cancer and GERD, but not realize that their indigestion might be the result of cancer.

This is why it is important to not focus on just one symptom, but all of the symptoms associated with a form of cancer. This means that you should not immediately worry if you experience chronic indigestion.

The best thing to do would be to take note of any other symptoms you might be experiencing, and talk to your doctor about it. They would best be able to interpret your symptoms, and conduct tests if necessary.

This can help pinpoint the exact reason why you are experiencing indigestion, and treat it as soon as possible.

Learn more about common cancer symptoms, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Pancreatic cancer signs and symptoms | Pancreatic Cancer UK, https://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/information-and-support/facts-about-pancreatic-cancer/signs-and-symptoms-of-pancreatic-cancer/#:~:text=Indigestion%20(dyspepsia)%20can%20sometimes%20be,t%20usually%20due%20to%20cancer., Accessed August 18 2020

Oesophago-gastric Cancer | Be Clear on Cancer, https://www.nhs.uk/be-clear-on-cancer/symptoms/oesophagogastric-cancer, Accessed August 18 2020

Stomach Cancer: Symptoms and Signs | Cancer.Net, https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/stomach-cancer/symptoms-and-signs, Accessed August 18 2020

Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer, https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/signs-and-symptoms-of-colon-cancer.html, Accessed August 18 2020

Indigestion, Or Something Worse? What Your Symptoms Are Saying, https://www.stopcoloncancernow.com/spread-awareness/news/is-it-indigestion-or-something-worse-what-your-symptoms-are-telling-you, Accessed August 18 2020

Symptoms of advanced bowel cancer | Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/bowel-cancer/advanced/symptoms-advanced-cancer, Accessed August 18 2020

Indigestion – Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform, https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/indigestion, Accessed August 18 2020

That dyspepsia in the young could be cancer, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3687867/, Accessed August 18 2020

Symptoms of stomach cancer | Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/stomach-cancer/symptoms, Accessed August 18 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 05
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.