Signs of stomach cancer can be identified years before symptoms study finds

Scientist looking into microscope
-Credit: (Image: Thomas Tolstrup/Getty)

Researchers have found a way signs of stomach cancer could be detected years before symptoms develop. In a recent study, evidence suggests a simple test can help identify bacteria that could be associated with gastric cancer.

A new type of mouthwash, which is in its early stages of research, is enabling scientists to analyse microbiomes in peoples' mouths. By analysing the microbiomes, health experts are able to detect possible traces of the disease.

In the study, researchers took samples of bacteria from 98 different people. Thirty of them had gastric cancer, another 30 showed precancerous symptoms and the remaining 38 did not have any stomach issues.

Results showed little difference between the bacterial samples from those in the precancerous and cancerous groups. However, there were differences found between those two groups and the 38 healthy participants.

Scientists say the findings indicate bacteria in peoples' mouths can change as soon as their gut undergoes changes that eventually become cancerous. They also added that the research suggests oral bacteria could be a biomarker for gastric cancer risks.

Woman carefully pouring blue mouthwash into a cup
The method is being called 'swish and rinse' -Credit:Getty

More research and studies are due to take place to ensure the findings are applicable to a broader population. Discussing the findings, Shruthi Reddy Perati, MD, said: "Too many patients are being diagnosed too late.

"There are no formal screening guidelines for gastric cancer, and more than half of patients with gastric cancer do not receive a diagnosis until their cancer is already at an advanced stage." She added: "The oral microbiome may serve as a window into the composition of the stomach environment."

Dr. Elliot Newman, chief of surgical oncology at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital told Medical News Today: "Work like this is always exciting, but we have to see what happens in the long term. In theory, someone could have the rinse and it can pick up changes in the stomach that might be precancerous. If we can do that, we can cure everyone."

What is stomach cancer?

According to the NHS, stomach cancer is cancer that’s found anywhere in the stomach. The severity of stomach cancer varies based on the size of the tumour, whether it has spread and your overall health.

Symptoms can include:

  • heartburn or acid reflux

  • having problems swallowing (dysphagia)

  • feeling or being sick

  • symptoms of indigestion, such as burping a lot

  • feeling full very quickly when eating

  • loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to

  • a lump at the top of your tummy

  • pain at the top of your tummy

  • feeling tired or having no energy

If you have another condition, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, you may get symptoms like these regularly. You might find you get used to them. But it's important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.