Abdominal pain in stomach cancer is a common symptom, particularly in the latter stages of the disease. There are various causes for this and I will explain these to you. The important thing to remember is that it should be treated appropriately by your doctor with the right level of analgesia or pain relief.
So, what causes symptoms?
Dyspepsia is a term used by doctors to describe pain or discomfort symptoms attributable to the upper gastrointestinal tract.
It is often used synonymously with indigestion, but this is not always the case. In gastric malignancies for example, dyspepsia can arise from the tumor itself or from excess acidity.
Other Forms Of Dyspepsia Include:
Dyspepsia is normally treated with analgesics and acid suppressants such as the PPI drugs (proton pump inhibitors), the most common being omeprazole and
lansoprazole. Other treatments depend on the cause.
As the tumor extends from your stomach to local lymph nodes, these glands enlarge and can cause pain. If the tumor perforates (a hole in the wall or lining), this can cause peritonitis, a condition which can make you ill. This sort of abdominal pain in stomach cancer will require opiate drugs, for example morphine and diamorphine to control symptoms. An operation may be considered as there is a high mortality rate if treated conservatively.
If you develop secondary tumors in your liver, you can experience symptoms in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen. You may also experience referred pain between your shoulder blades, similar to the pain gallstone sufferers experience.
These symptoms are due to stretching or involvement of the liver capsule, a membrane that encases your liver.
The peritoneum is a membrane that lines your abdomen. Tumor deposits can occur on this membrane causing generalised abdominal pain in stomach cancer sufferers.
Tumor deposits can occur in your bones. When these involve your spine, they can cause collapse of the spinal bones which can cause pain due to nerve impingement, loss of sensation in the are affected and limb weakness.
In the lower back, the nerves pass around to the front of your abdomen in what's known as dermatomal distribution (see the schematic diagram).
This can cause symptoms of abdominal as well as back pain and is normally treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, radiotherapy to the spine and occassionally surgery.
Ascites in stage 4 stomach cancer is not uncommon. This fluid builds up in your abdomen and can cause bloating and abdominal discomfort. Pain can also occur if the fluid becomes infected. When this happens, it is known as spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and is normally treated with antibiotics. Ascites is normally drained for comfort and you can learn more about this in the and you can find out more about this in the signs and symptoms section.
The type of treatment you have really depends on the cause. The most common treatment is analgesic pain relief and you can learn of some pain relief options in the advanced cancer section.