Letchemi started to experience gas, reflux and bloating after only recently completing treatment for breast cancer. After some tests, she was shocked to find out that she had cancer again—this time in her stomach. This National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, Letchemi shares her story to remind us all to see a doctor when we notice changes in our body.
Every year, about 2,400 Australians are diagnosed with stomach cancer. If not found and treated early, stomach cancer can spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.
Letchemi’s cancer experience began in 2009, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram at the mobile breast cancer screening unit in Waikerie.
Eighteen months later at a follow up appointment with her breast surgeon, Letchemi’s husband mentioned that she was having some gas, reflux and bloating. Knowing her history, her surgeon decided it was best to investigate with an endoscopy.
“I didn’t think much of it, so was incredibly surprised when the scans showed a lesion on my stomach. He told me he thought it looked suspicious, so sent it off for further tests, which confirmed it was cancer,” Letchemi says.
“I was lucky as it wasn’t a secondary cancer—it was another primary, completely unrelated to my breast cancer, which meant that the original cancer hadn’t spread.”
Symptoms of stomach cancer, like those Letchemi experienced, can be caused by many other conditions, so they can often be overlooked. That’s why it’s so important that if you notice any changes in your body that last more than two weeks, you see a GP as soon as possible.
Common symptoms of stomach cancer to look out for include:
- unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
- difficulty swallowing
- pain or burning sensation in the abdomen (heartburn)
- frequent burping, or stomach acid coming back up into the oesophagus (reflux)
- persistent nausea and/or vomiting with no apparent cause
- abdominal (stomach) pain
- feeling full after eating
- swelling of the abdomen or feeling bloated
- unexplained tiredness, which may be due to low red blood cells (anaemia)
- vomit that has blood in it
- black or bloody stools.
Letchemi had an operation to remove a large part of her stomach and then underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment simultaneously for five weeks. After finishing treatment for stomach cancer, Letchemi went back to work but only for a year before leaving again to prioritise her health.
Now, 11 years on, Letchemi is doing really well. The cancer has gone and she is now a Cancer Council SA Ambassador sharing her story to help others.
If you notice any changes in your body or possible symptoms of stomach cancer, like Letchemi did, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible.
If you’ve been diagnosed with stomach cancer, or know someone who has, our experienced Cancer Council Nurses are here for you. Get in touch on 13 11 20 or visit cancersa.org.au/support/support-services/13-11-20-information-and-support-service