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Know the facts about stomach cancer

Dr. Sidra Khalid

November is stomach cancer awareness month. The rate of stomach cancer has been declining gradually over the last few decades because of a reduction of risk factors. 

There are many risk factors involved with stomach cancer. The main risk factor is Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). It is a chronic, bacterial infection of the stomach that causes inflammation, also known as gastritis. It is treatable with antibiotics. Once treated, the risk of stomach cancer decreases significantly. 

Also, changes in diet are recommended. Salt, salt-preserved foods, and foods containing nitrites are associated with stomach cancer. Alcohol and smoking also are related to stomach cancer. Additionally, pernicious anemia is an autoimmune condition that causes gastritis and low vitamin B12 levels. Pernicious anemia also can lead to the development of stomach cancer. 

Stomach cancer is linked with many genetic syndromes. If there is a strong family history, genetic testing is strongly recommended. 

If you have symptoms, do not delay seeing your doctor. The symptoms that commonly present with stomach cancer are weight loss, abdominal pain, nausea, painful swallowing, black-colored stools called melena and early fullness after meals. Continue to make lifestyle adjustments, appropriately manage H. pylori and know your family history to decrease the risk of stomach cancer.


Stomach cancer accounts for about 1.5 percent of all new cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Estimates for 2021 anticipate 26,560 new cases of stomach cancer (16,160 in men and 10,400 in women), with about 11,180 deaths. 

The lifetime risk of developing stomach cancer is higher in men (about 1 in 96) than in women (about 1 in 152), but each person’s risk can be affected by many factors, including diet and genetic predisposition. 

Stomach cancer mostly affects older people. The average age of people when they are diagnosed is 68. About six of every 10 people diagnosed with stomach cancer each year are 65 or older. 

Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include: 

  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Feeling bloated after eating 
  • Feeling full after eating small amounts of food 
  • Heartburn 
  • Indigestion 
  • Nausea 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Unintentional weight loss 
  • Vomiting 
  • Factors that increase the risk of stomach cancer include: 
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease 
  • Obesity 
  • A diet high in salty and smoked foods 
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables 
  • Family history of stomach cancer 
  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori 
  • Long-term stomach inflammation (gastritis) 
  • Smoking 
  • Stomach polyps 


Dr. Sidra Khalid is a physician with Memorial Physician Clinics specializing in hematology, oncology and internal medicine. Reach her at (228) 575-1234. 

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