Drugs, long-term stomachache may be sign of cancer

HARD TO DETECT::There are very few early warning signs for gastric cancer, with symptoms showing in advanced stages only, experts warn

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Dec 14, 2013 - Page 3

Long-term stomachache controlled by stomach acid drugs might be a sign of gastric cancer, the Shu Tien Clinic says.

Gastric cancer ranked sixth as the cause of death from cancer among Taiwanese last year, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The clinic’s director of gastroenterology, Chiu Chan-hsien (邱展賢), said a 42-year old female who first developed a gastric ulcer seven years ago suffered stomachache in the past two months, with her symptoms including back pain. She had been taking over-the-counter stomach medications, and after finding that they were becoming less effective, sought medical attention. She was diagnosed with gastric cancer.

Another 55-year-old man’s gastric ulcer also tested positive for cancer. He started treatment following months of gastroesophageal reflux and nausea, Chiu said. The male patient also had a habit of purchasing OTC stomach acid reducers for his stomach disorder.

Chiu said more than half of his outpatient care patients purchase stomach drugs over the counter, with the most common including antacids, H2 receptor antagonists, proton pump inhibitor and gastric mucosal protective agents.

Risk factors for developing are a family history of the disease, peptic ulcers or previous episodes of any of the following: gastrectomy, Helicobacter pylori infection, chronic atrophic gastritis, a diet that includes smoked or pickled food products, gastric polyps or pernicious anemia, Chiu said.

He said that there are no obvious early warning symptoms for stomach cancer and often only at an advanced stage when noticeable symptoms can be detected.

Advanced stage symptoms include indigestion, loss of appetite, discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen, heartburn, fatigue, loss of weight or blood in the stool.

Chiu said as preventive measures, people can consume fresh vegetables and fruit to prevent H pylori infection, avoid high-salt and smoked foods, curb smoking and drinking.