Stomach pains come and go, and it is normal to experience stomach discomfort every once in a while. While it can typically be a minor digestive issue, perhaps after a heavy meal or too much spice in your favourite bowl of noodles, there are times when the discomfort becomes persistent and increasingly unbearable.
But, before you get too concerned and start worrying about the worst-case scenarios such as stomach cancer, it’s time to find out the other possible issues aside from this illness.
Where exactly is my stomach?
It is common for most people to associate any form of abdominal pain with stomach issues. However, there are actually many organs located in your abdominal area.
Your stomach is a sac-like organ in your abdomen that digests food with the help of gastric juices and acids. The stomach is located in the upper-left abdominal area. Any pain experienced around and within this region would be considered stomach pain.
Aside from your stomach, the abdomen contains many other organs responsible for digestion – namely the spleen, gallbladder, small and large intestines, and pancreas. Connecting tissues, otherwise known as the mesentery, allow these organs to expand during the digestion process.
What is stomach cancer and how do I spot it?
Cancer is the abnormal growth and functioning of cells in one’s body. Specifically for stomach cancer, a growth or tumour usually begins in the mucosa, the moist inner lining of the stomach. Instead of dividing in the usual orderly manner, the cells here become affected and develop into cancer cells. As the condition worsens, cancer can spread to cells in the external parts of the organ and possibly enter the bloodstream, impacting the rest of the body.
Contrary to popular belief, stomach cancer is not only defined by chronic stomach pain symptoms. Apart from general abdominal pain, one will experience a combination of symptoms – including poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, or weight loss for no particular reason. While these symptoms are also characteristic of many other stomach or abdominal issues, it is best to get diagnosed and rule out the possibility of stomach cancer.
If it is not cancer, what is behind my abdominal pain?
There are many other causes of stomach and abdominal pain. If you usually experience abdominal discomfort after a meal, it could be caused by acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when the lower oesophagus sphincter (the muscle between the oesophagus and stomach) has weakened and functions abnormally. As such, acids and digestive juices from the stomach can leak back into the oesophagus during digestion, leading to heartburn and general discomfort. Fret not, acid reflux can be treated by reducing the consumption of certain foods (e.g. spicy or fatty food) and a prescription of medication from your doctor or pharmacist.
Abdominal pain can also be a sign of Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). With a chronic inflammation of your digestive tract, you may also experience persistent diarrhoea, bloating, and find blood in your stools. If you are suspected of having Crohn’s Disease, seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent the disease from developing. A typical Crohn’s disease treatment includes medication and nutrition therapy to reduce inflammation.
There are many other causes of abdominal pain such as gastric pain from sensitive stomach as well as diseases affecting the pancreas, for instance pancreas inflammation or abnormal growth.
How can I prevent stomach issues in general?
Stomach and abdominal issues are often related to one’s diet. Processed, sugary, oily foods are difficult to digest and pose issues to one’s digestive system. Instead, consider a more plant-based diet and eat more foods high in fibre, such as whole grains and vegetables.
Additionally, attending regular check-ups will help you steer clear or treat illnesses early. If you are not diagnosed with any medical conditions, your doctor will suggest lifestyle changes and provide nutritional advice to help you ease your discomfort.
Stomach issues are not always a sign of cancer or a severe illness. With adequate exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet, you can help your digestive system function the best it can. If you suspect the possibility of medical conditions or illnesses, do consult a medical professional who can accurately diagnose and prescribe the right course of treatment.