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Stomach bloating: When is bloating a sign of cancer? Symptoms to look out for

Stomach bloating is a common ailment caused by too much gas clogging up the gastrointestinal tract. It can provide immense discomfort – the most obvious complaint is a swelling sensation in the pit of your tummy. This discomfort is made worse when accompanied with stomach cramps.

When bloating is a gas-related issue, it is usually remedied by cutting out gassy culprits.

The worst offenders are:

  • Beans
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Sprouts
  • Cauliflower

Occasionally, stomach bloating can signal cancer, which will require a different set of responses measures.

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Stomach bloating is a main symptom of ovarian cancer, or cancer of the ovaries, one of the most common types of cancer in women, according to the NHS.

READ MORE: Stomach bloating: The simple 10 minute daily exercise proven to reduce bloating

Stomach bloating: Persistent bloating that is accompanied with loss of appetite could mean cancer (Image: Getty Images)

How to distinguish a regular bloat from a sign of cancer

For bloating to be a cause for concern, it generally needs to have lasted for more than two weeks in a month, said Monique Swain, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, writing in an editorial on the medical website Health.

“If bloating is persistent and does not vary with changing eating habits or bowel movements, it is a good idea to seek medical care,” added Alex Hewlett, DO, associate professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in the same article.

Another telltale sign that bloating could be a sign of ovarian cancer is a change in your toilet habits.

Out-of-the-ordinary bowel or urinary issues is a sign that something is wrong.

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For example, you might suddenly need to go to the bathroom more urgently “if a mass is big enough and pressing on the bladder,” said Dr Swain.

Bloating can also signal advanced bowel cancer.

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As Cancer Research UK explains, advanced bowel cancer can sometimes cause swelling of the tummy (abdomen).

This is due to a build up of fluid in the tummy (abdomen).

When bloating could be a sign of cancer: Needing to go the toilet more urgently is a sign (Image: Getty Images)

If your bloating is accompanied with any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign:

  • Clothes feeling tighter or needing a bigger belt size
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Difficulty sitting comfortably and moving around
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Needing to pass urine often
  • Breathlessness
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)

When to seek help

According to the NHS, if you recognise one or more of the symptoms of bowel cancer or if your bloating symptoms persist, consult your GP to rule out a more serious condition.

In most cases, however, simple lifestyle adjustments should help to alleviate your bloating.

Stomach bloating: If your bloating is caused by constipation, increase your intake of fibre (Image: Getty Images)

If you get constipation, for example, take steps to prevent it by adding more fibre to your diet, drinking lots of fluids and exercising regularly, advises the NHS.

“Even a 20 to 30 minute brisk walk four times a week can improve your bowel function,” explains the health body.

It is also worth keeping a food diary as this can help to determine whether your bloating is caused by a food intolerance.

“The best approach if you have a food intolerance is to eat less of the problem food or cut it out completely,” adds the NHS.


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