Signs and Symptoms
Most patients who have dyspepsia as a result of stomach cancer will have worrisome symptoms in addition to simply having dyspepsia. These are called “alarm symptom.”
Alarm symptoms of dyspepsia
- persistent vomiting
- evidence of bleeding (red or black stools)
- unexplained weight loss
- difficulty swallowing
- a mass in the abdomen found by the physician.
If you have any of these alarm symptoms or if you are older and have new symptoms, you should not ignore your dyspepsia but should promptly seek medical attention.
Based on your history and what the physician finds when he/she examines you, it may be necessary for you to have one or more tests to determine what the cause of your dyspepsia is.
It should be stressed, however, that most persons with dyspepsia do not need investigations, and their dyspepsia can be quite appropriately and adequately treated by a family physician/general practitioner
Risks Associated with Dyspepsia
The most common cause of heartburn and dyspepsia is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a condition in which the acid that is normally present in the stomach to help digest our food flows back up the swallowing tube (esophagus). In some persons this causes heartburn and regurgitation, and in others it may cause these symptoms as well as also cause inflammation (redness and swelling) or sores (erosions) in the esophagus. A small number of persons suffering from dyspepsia may have an ulcer in the stomach (gastric ulcer) or in the first part of the intestine (duodenal ulcer).
The gastric or duodenal ulcer may be caused by an infection in the stomach (Helicobacter pylori), or by taking aspirin or arthritis-treating medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Other persons with dyspepsia will not have any identifiable disease in the esophagus, stomach or duodenum. These persons are said to have “functional dyspepsia” or “non-ulcer dyspepsia”.