Don't treat gastric pain lightly.
Seek medical help, says Dr Ramesh Gurunathan, consultant gastrointestinal surgeon, "because the symptoms of normal gastric pain and early stomach cancer are very similar.
Early gastric cancer is extremely difficult to detect with virtually no symptoms except for the gastritis, so what most people tend to do is to take it lightly."
"Patients with dyspeptic symptoms should be investigated early rather than viewing the pain as a classical symptom of gastritis," he advised at the Third Asia Pacific Gastroesophaegeal Cancer Congress held at Sunway Medical Centre, Selangor recently.
Those affected will firstly experience infection in the upper gastrointestinal tract (oesophageal and stomach), but often only seek treatment when the stomach cancer has developed to stage II or IV. Early symptoms of stomach cancer are gastritis or gastric pain.
But Dr Ramesh says these symptoms may not necessarily mean stomach cancer but can also be a sign of early bacterial infection of the Helicobacter Pylori, a known risk factor for stomach cancer. "
At the early stage, the Helicobacter Pylori is easily treated but if left alone, it can develop into stomach cancer."
Symptoms of stomach cancer at an advanced stage are weight loss, reduced appetite, vomiting, passing of black stools (which may indicate that you are bleeding from a growth in the stomach), bloatedness, acid reflux and satiety. "
Some people may have mild abdominal pain and no specific symptoms, so they self-treat."
One should cut down on high salt intake, eat more fruits and vegetables and get enough vitamins A, C and E.
"Unhealthy eating habits, irregular food intake and a hectic lifestyle are major contributing factors." Cut down on smoking and the consumption of alcohol and pickled, and preserved foods.
"It is one of the 10 most common cancers in Malaysia with about 1,400 Malaysians developing it every year.
It can occur in adults of any age, however it is rare under the age of 50. It is more common among men than women."
Stomach cancer may affect males more because they smoke and drink more than women.
In Malaysia, stomach cancer is the seventh most common cancer in males while it is the 10th most common cancer in females.
Its prevalence in terms of ethnicity shows the highest among the Chinese (65 per cent).
The figures are also high in Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. This can mean that it may be related to diet, genetics or eating habits.
The bacteria is spread via food and air, thriving on unclean food and environment.