Is Indigestion A Sign Of Cancer?

Is Indigestion A Sign of Cancer? The simple answer is yes, but is much more complex than this and I will explain why.

It’s a simple fact, we ALL suffer from indigestion at some point in our lives, but we don’t all develop gastric tumors!

Why? Because these symptoms are usually associated with either excessive eating, high fat intake, too much caffeine, smoking, obesity, anatomical anomalies such as a hiatus hernia and drugs such as NSAID’s or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen.

We can all associate ourselves with this, but why do some go on to develop the disease and not others? 

So Is Indigestion A Sign Of Cancer?

Well we know that you are at increased risk of the disease if you are:

  • Smoking – Increases your risk by approximately 20%
  • Obesity – Meta-analysis of current studies has shown an increase risk
  • Diet – Possible link evident
  • H.Pylori Infection

And these are some of the associations with indigestion

So who should we worry about?


I Have Indigestion, Should I Be Screened?

On current evidence, if you have a new onset of indigestion symptoms and are over 50 years of age and asking "is indigestion a sign of cancer?" it is advisable to have a screening test.

If you are under 50 years of age and have a new onset with persisting symptoms despite treatment you should be considered for investigation.

If you have signs including:

Anemia, anorexia or loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, black bowel motions or developed a lump in the abdomen this should be investigated urgently.

Doctors should be aware that if you have symptoms and smoke or are overweight then further investigations should be considered. Always discuss the need for investigation with your doctor.

"My daughter died last year aged 28 from stomach cancer. She was a non smoker, not overweight and had a good vegetarian diet. Her stomach symptoms were overlooked probably because of her age and she was not diagnosed till it had spread to her bones. She had been treated for backache.I still can't believe it  and can't imagine how it happened .This is to warn people not to ignore indigestion whatever your age and not to take no from a doctor. Seek a 2nd opinion."

What Tests Do I Need?

If you need investigating, the main test you require is an endoscopy.

If you can’t have this done, a less common test would be a barium swallow or meal when you are given barium dye to swallow and x-rays are used to view the upper gut. 


H.pylori or helicobacter pylori are associated with peptic ulcers. Approximately 95% of duodenal ulcers are associated with this bacterial infection and 60% of gastric ulcers.

Gastric ulcers are often benign, but can have malignant potential. H.pylori is particularly associated with a tumor known as a MALToma although this is an unusual tumor.

It is said that up to 50% of the world’s population has the infection, but most of these cause no symptoms. There are likely certain serotypes that increase risk, but current testing is purely to look for the infection itself with a view to treatment with antibiotics and acid suppressing drugs.

The test for this can be done either as a blood sample analysis for the antibody, a stool test which is particularly useful for children, a UBT or Urea Breath test or at endoscopy by either a CLO test or a biopsy sent for histological lab analysis.

How Can I Prevent it?

  • If you smoke, you should seek anti-smoking advice. There are a lot of products available on the market now for this.
  • Try to lose weight through a weight loss program or dietician advice.
  • Diet – aim for a balance diet with not too much fat and caffeine intake.
  • See your doctor for H.pylori testing and treatment of your symptoms with acid suppressing medications.

If you do all these things, it may lower your risk.

Reduce Fat Means Reduced Indigestion and Cancer Risk

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