Yes, cancer can cause your stomach to ache after eating, but there are a few things you need to know about this – variables to consider and when to be alarmed.
A stomach ache after eating is usually not caused by cancer. “Usually” is the key word here, because it means that there are cases in which this symptom IS being caused by a malignancy.
“It is possible, but not very probable, especially early in the course of the cancer,” says Mark Levandovsky, MD, Founder and Medical Director of Preventive Medicine and Cancer Care. Dr. Levandovsky is a board certified internist and oncologist/hematologist in practice for over 17 years.
The lack of high probability means that if you’re experiencing this symptom, there is no need to panic.
But there IS a need to see a doctor.
Dr. Levandovsky explains, “Pressure, compression or impingement of nerves/organs [by a tumor] would typically be responsible for pain, which happens in more advanced stages.
“However, irritation of the mucus lining by abnormal/cancerous cells can cause pain shortly after eating due to acid buildup in the stomach, esophagus or small bowel.”
Just what exactly is stomach pain anyways?
This can come in various forms, though the patient may end up referring to it as “pain”:
• Full or bloated feeling after only a small amount of food
• Sensation of abdomen being stretched
Cancer is not at the top of the list for causes. More common causes include:
• Acid reflux or GERD. Triggers include liquor, spicy foods, chocolate and citrus fruits.
• Allergies to milk, soy, fish, nuts, eggs and wheat
• Artificial sweeteners, e.g., sorbitol and other “sugar alcohols”
• Celiac disease: The body “thinks” that gluten (common in the general food supply) is a foreign invader and hence, an immune response is triggered. Repeated responses damage the small intestine.
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Intolerance to a food, such as to lactose
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Peptic ulcer
Though stomach or abdominal pain is a common symptom of cancers that affect the colon, pancreas, liver and ovaries, the issue is when pain is clearly brought on by eating.
This is not normal and warrants a visit to your doctor. Do not be afraid of what you might be diagnosed with.
It will likely NOT be cancer – especially if there are no other symptoms that are not related to eating such as leg or back pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, constipation, blood in the stools, chalky or grey colored stools or other strange symptoms.
Dr. Levandovsky provides personalized care to health conscious individuals as well as cancer patients and survivors, focusing on an integration of genetic/molecular risk assessments, prevention, education, nutrition and psycho-oncology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.