Stomach cancer has a reputation for being one of the most painful forms of cancer. But for many sufferers, pain is not among the disease’s early warning signs.In fact, the most common feature of stomach cancer’s early stages may be that it causes no symptoms at all, says Umut Sarpel, MD, an associate professor and surgical oncologist at New York’s Mount Sinai Health System.”We all get stomachaches from time to time, and that can make people worry about stomach cancer,” Dr. Sarpel says. “But it’s not one of the most common cancers, and in most cases stomachaches or pain are not going to be the result of cancer.”So how common is stomach cancer? Roughly 1 in 111 adults will develop stomach (gastric) cancer at some point in her lifetime, and the disease is more common among men, according to the American Cancer Society. Dr. Sarpel adds that a person’s risk for the disease goes up as she ages.
Stomach cancer is not typically an inherited disease. “The majority of gastric cancers are sporadic, or caused by random DNA mutations,” she says. While there is a super-rare genetic mutation associated with the disease, Dr. Sarpel says it’s not worth testing for that unless a lot of people in your family tree have had the disease.