Is Burping a Lot a Sign of Cancer? Possible Links and More

Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

Cancer can be a silent but deadly disease. Patients with cancer might not notice any symptoms for years. Even when they do, it can be vague and confusing. Some changes like unexpected weight loss or stomach pain can be worrying signs of cancer. So, is burping a lot a sign of cancer?

In this article, we’ll explore this intriguing question. Plus, get ready to uncover the unexpected link between lower back pain and cancer.

Belching, also called burping or eructation, is when air from your stomach or esophagus comes out into the throat in a sound (1, 2). Belching is usually good, as it means your body is getting rid of extra air to ease your stomach (1, 3). 

Everyone experiences belching, but if it happens non-stop, you might need to take a closer look.

How much is too much?

It is normal to burp up to 30 times a day, but over-exceeding it can be a sign of belching disorder (1, 4). A person with this disorder can belch up to 20 times per minute (3, 5), which means that your stomach traps too much air, and muscles loosen up, sending air out through your mouth (4).

You should talk to your doctor if you feel unwell or have symptoms such as belly pain, constipation, diarrhea, or weight loss (6).

Is burping a sign of esophageal cancer?

Excess burping is usually not a sign of cancer, but if it goes along with other problems, it could be a red flag from your digestive tract. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be the reason and increase the risk of esophageal cancer (2, 7, 8).

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is when your stomach contents come back into your esophagus. GERD is more severe and long-lasting, causing complications over time (9).

Belching is a common symptom in patients with GERD because patients may swallow air frequently (3).

Other GERD symptoms include (10): 

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Feeling painful or difficult to swallow
  • Chronic cough or hoarseness

GERD, if not treated and those symptoms remain, can cause serious problems such as esophageal cancer, but it is rare (8).

Is burping a sign of stomach cancer?

Unfortunately, many digestive tract cancers, including stomach cancer, don’t show signs until they’re advanced (9, 10).

If you burp a lot and also have difficulty with swallowing, vomiting blood, or bloody stool, you may have a Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Chronic infection with H. pylori can cause swelling and trigger stomach cancer (11, 12).

About 3% of patients with this infection develop gastric cancer. Once this bacteria resides in your stomach, it stays there your whole life (12).

Watch out for these symptoms (11):

  • Pain or burning sensation in your abdomen
  • Feeling full or bloated and having difficulty drinking fluids
  • Getting hungry too soon, one to three hours after a meal
  • Mild nausea that may ease with vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss 
  • Bloody, dark, and tarry stools or vomit

If you notice the following symptoms, call emergency immediately (11):

  • Dark or bloody stools
  • Severe vomiting with blood, substances, or with stomach contents 
  • Severe abdominal pain, with or without vomiting or blood

Is burping a sign of liver cancer?

Belching is not a direct sign of liver cancer. The most common signs of liver cancer are (13):

  • Losing weight unintentionally
  • Itching or skin and eyes turn yellow (jaundice)
  • Losing appetite, feeling full quickly after small meals
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Enlarged liver, felt as fullness under the right ribs
  • Enlarged spleen, felt as fullness under the left ribs
  • Pain in the belly or near the right shoulder blade
  • Swelling or fluid in the belly

However, having one or more of those signs doesn’t mean you have liver cancer (13).

Hepatitis viruses can cause liver cancer. The virus’s DNA might be inserted into your liver cell’s DNA and can lead to cancer (14, 15). 

On the other hand, excessive burping is a sign related to other digestive problems, especially in the esophagus and stomach. Indigestion may be a sign of cancer, but it is not specific to a certain type of cancer or increases your risk of cancer (16, 17).

Stomach cancer may spread to the liver, which causes jaundice as a symptom (18, 19).

Other possible causes

Burping is not a cancer warning in general. It occurs in two ways: ‘gastric belch’ and ‘supragastric belch’ (1, 20).

Supragastric belching is when you quickly bring air into your throat and release it before it reaches your stomach (7, 20). People with excessive supragastric belching don’t experience other symptoms besides occasionally mild stomach discomfort (3).

In a study, nine out of the ten patients with excessive belching had esophageal motility dysfunction and supra-gastric belching (4).

Gastric belching is when your stomach relaxes and lets air out (1, 20). Some conditions can trigger gastric belching (2, 3, 7):

  • Aerophagia: the habit of swallowing air due to nervousness, causing bloating, constipation, and abdominal distention
  • Dyspepsia: indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Gastroparesis: difficulty in digestion due to delayed stomach emptying
  • Gastritis: inflammation of the stomach linings
  • Celiac disease: This is an autoimmune disease in which eating gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. 
  • Intestinal pseudo-obstruction 

Burping up to 30 times a day is normal and not a sign of cancer, but might be related to other digestive issues such as GERD or aerophagia.

Natural remedies to reduce burping

Burping is natural. The treatment of excessive burping will depend on what causes it. If there is nothing serious, diet and lifestyle changes can ease the burping (21).

Gastric belching

Here are some tips to reduce gas (3, 6, 21):

  • Avoid chewing gum and eating hard candy
  • Avoid drinking fizzy drinks and using a straw
  • Avoid talking while eating or drinking
  • Avoid eating on the run
  • Sit down and savor your meals slowly
  • Quit smoking, and ask your doctor for some tips to quit
  • Check with your dentist to make sure your dentures (if you wear them) fit correctly

Certain carbs, such as insoluble fibers, may not be fully digested in your stomach and small intestine. In the large intestine, bacteria break them down and create gas (20, 21).

 Foods to avoid when burping (20, 21):

  • Fruits like apples, peaches, pears, and fruit juices
  • Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and collard greens
  • Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
  • Dairy products such as milk, ice cream, and yogurt
  • Whole grains like whole wheat
  • Drinks with added sugar
  • Candy, gum, or other products that contain sweeteners ending in ‘–ol’

Supragastric belching

Supragastric belching is a behavioral disorder (due to anxiety and stressful events), and it can develop into a habitual pattern (1, 2, 3). 

A study suggested that distraction and stimulation can affect the frequency of belching; distraction can reduce the frequency of belching, whereas paying attention to patients’ belching will increase its frequency (3). 

Thus behavioral therapy or psychological treatment can help those suffering from supragastric belching (20, 21).

The difficulty is to get patients to realize that belching is a behavioral disorder. It’s hard for them to accept it because there is no physical explanation for their symptoms (1, 3). Tackling this disorder involves changing unconscious breathing and swallowing to do it more consciously and purposefully. Cognitive behavioral therapy, abdominal breathing, or retraining your breathing can help (1).

To reduce belching, avoid smoking, chewing gum, hard candy, fizzy drinks, and talking while eating. Sit down and savor your meal slowly. Also, watch out for those carbs that can lead to extra gas. Behavioral therapy can help to reduce the supragastric belching.

Lower back pain and cancer: What you should know

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting eight out of ten people at some point (22). Among patients with low back pain who go to primary care, less than 1% of them have cancer as the cause (23), but it’s a chance that back pain could be a sign of cancer.

Sudden low back pain can be caused by conditions like spinal and ovarian cancer. About 30%‒70% of cancer patients may have cancer that spreads to their spine (23, 24, 25).

Cancers that can make their way to the spine are (18, 25, 26):

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Myeloma, lymphoma, melanoma, sarcoma
  • Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Kidney cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

If you have had cancer before, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any new lower back pain (26).

Other possible causes of lower back pain

Causes of sudden low back pain may include (26):

  • Spinal issues like osteoporosis or bone fractures
  • Muscle problems such as spasms, strains, or herniated disks
  • Conditions affecting the spine’s shape
  • Pregnancy-related problems
  • A leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Problems with your kidney, gallbladder, or pancreas

You should also contact your healthcare provider if you experience (26):

  • Back pain after a severe blow or fall
  • Burning sensation or blood in your urine while urinating
  • Loss of control over urine or stool (incontinence)
  • Pain traveling down your legs below the knee
  • Pain that worsens while lying down or disrupts your sleep at night
  • Redness or swelling on the back or spine
  • Severe pain that makes it difficult to find comfort
  • Unexplained fever along with back pain
  • Weakness or numbness in your buttocks, thigh, leg, or pelvis
  • Losing weight unintentionally
  • This episode of back pain lasts longer than four weeks

Lower back pain is a common issue, with less than 1% of patients diagnosed with cancer as the cause. Cancers like lung, breast, and prostate can spread to the spine. Sudden lower back pain can also come from spinal, muscle, and other issues. If you have unexplained lower back pain, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

Is farting a sign of cancer?

When there’s too much gas in our digestive tract, we end up farting, which is also called flatulence (passing gas), but it is not considered a cancer warning (6, 17). 
Farting is normal and happens to everyone. On average, we let out about 8 to 14 farts a day. Some may fart more often, and that’s not a problem —experts consider up to 25 farts a day to be normal (6). 

Is diarrhea a symptom of pancreatic cancer?

As a digestive problem, pancreatic cancer can cause diarrhea. Also, watch out for some cancer drugs because they can also cause diarrhea. Yet it is not the symptom to spot this cancer. Common symptoms may include jaundice, abdominal pain, unexpected weight loss, nausea, and vomiting (18, 27).

What are the early warning signs of stomach cancer?

Detecting stomach cancer early is challenging as it tends to conceal itself. However, you should be aware of symptoms such as belly pain, bloating, tiredness, heartburn, indigestion, blood in your stool, or unintentional weight loss. Unfortunately, most stomach cancers in the US are only caught once they’ve already grown or spread beyond the stomach (19).

Is burping a sign of colon cancer?

Burping is usually not a common sign of colon cancer, but related to stomach and esophagus problems. Colon cancer may provoke an obstruction or blockage of the digestive tract, which leads to more gas in your stomach and, thus, burping (7). 
Some common colon cancer symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, such as persistent diarrhea or constipation (28, 29). 

How long can you have stomach cancer without knowing?

Cancer patients, including those with stomach cancer, might not show any symptoms for years. When symptoms appear, doctors might confuse them with other illnesses. So, it can take five to seven years to figure it out, and there’s no routine test for stomach cancer. 
Moreover, some symptoms, such as indigestion, heartburn, or mild abdominal discomfort, can be easily mistaken for other digestive issues that can delay the real diagnosis (10, 30).

Summary

Excessive burping is typically not a sign of cancer. But if you are burping over 30 times a day and have other warning signs like chronic heartburn or stomach pain, you should see a doctor right away.

Even rare, excessive burping can be a clue to esophageal, stomach, and pancreatic cancer. To tone down the belching, try to avoid things that make your belly gassy or try some behavioral remedies.

There is also a link between lower back pain and cancer. Turns out, 30%—70% of cancer patients may have cancer that spreads to their spine.

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Amy20MD 1

Medical reviewed by Amy Rogers, MD MPH FACPM

Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Pandemic Response, Global Health

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