Stomach cancer is simply a cancer that attacks the stomach. The stomach is responsible for holding food after it is eaten. It also helps in breaking down and digestion of food.Cancer of the stomach is also referred to gastric cancer. This type of cancer begins from the cells that produce mucus located on the inner lining of the patient’s stomach, which makes it one of the most common types of cancer.
Cancer of the stomach is not that common in the U.S.A.The statistics of people being diagnosed with it is always on the decline. However, this type of cancer is prevalent in other countries, mostly the ones in Asia.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
It is unlikely for people to know whether they are suffering from stomach cancer early enough, because this condition does not have any early symptoms, or they can be non-specific or vague. Nausea and weight loss are the very first signs, which can be easily overlooked or misdiagnosed. Also, there is really no specific symptom that can point directly to stomach cancer and thus further tests and evaluation is needed to diagnose the condition.
The symptoms of cancer can vary depending on the severity and type of stomach cancer. It is important to see a doctor as soon as one starts experiencing any symptoms related to stomach cancer.
1. Blood Present in Stool
This is one of the many symptoms of stomach cancer. Whenever you see blood on tissue after going for a long call, you should consider getting a checkup. However, it is worth noting that other conditions can also be characterized by blood in stool. Blood in stool may not be visible with the naked eye. Further tests on the stool need to be done to reveal the traces of blood and the cause. Blood in stool can occur as a result of other cancer types, most commonly colon cancer.
2. Abdominal Discomfort and Pain
This is the most commonly occurring symptom that actually compels people to seek medical attention. This pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. This pain and discomfort is mostly persistent on the upper abdomen. Any kind of persistent abdominal pain should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.
3. Persistent Vomiting and Nausea
While these are non-specific symptoms associated with numerous conditions, it can also be due to the development of stomach cancer. Therefore, any persistent vomiting and nausea should be assessed by a doctor as it can damage the lining of the esophagus.
4. Appetite Loss
It is perfectly normal to lose appetite every once in a while.However, staying for too long without the desire to eat is bad for your health. Even so, loss of appetite does not necessarily point to stomach cancer.
5. Bloating of the Abdomen
When one has stomach cancer, abdominal bloating is also a common symptom. The pains are mostly prevalent after meals. Bloating can also be accompanied by heartburn and indigestion.
6. Bowel Movements Changes
The most common bowel movements changes associated with stomach cancer include diarrhea and constipation. However, this can also be a non-specific symptom of the disease since this symptom can also be caused by other health issues.
If you experience fatigue that is persistent, it is best to seek medical attention. When one is suffering from stomach cancer, fatigue can be a symptom as it is caused by anemia as a result of blood lost from vomiting and stool.
8. Excessive and Rapid Weight Loss
Weight loss without dieting may be welcomed by most people but is often linked to serious health issues.It is important to seek medical attention if you lose more or about 5% of normal weight in less than six months if you have not been dieting or exercising.
Causes and Risk Factors of Stomach Cancer
There is no known cause of stomach cancer. However, there are several factors that can increase the risk of suffering from the disease. These include:
- Gender – it is a known fact that men are twice as likely to suffer from stomach cancer as women.
- Race – Asians and African Americans are at a higher risk of stomach cancer.
- Genetics – abnormalities in the genetic makeup can also cause stomach cancer as the syndrome is inherited.
- Geographical location – people in South America, Central America, Japan and the former Soviet Union are more likely to suffer from stomach cancer than people in other parts of the world.
- Blood type – people with blood group A have a higher risk of suffering from stomach cancer than people with other blood groups.
- Age – people between the ages of 70 and above are more likely to develop cancer of the stomach than younger individuals.
- Lifestyle factors – like alcohol intake, smoking and eating foods low in fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of stomach cancer.
- H.pylori – is a bacterium that causes inflammation of the lining of the stomach as well as ulcers may also lead to higher chance of developing stomach cancer.
- Some health conditions – chronic gastritis, gastric polyps, pernicious anemia, prior stomach surgery as well as intestinal metaplasia can also lead to stomach cancer.
- Frequent exposure to chemicals – some professions such as coal mining, rubber and timber processing as well as nickel refining can also increase the chances of getting stomach cancer as they are frequently exposed to chemicals.
Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer
There are several tests that can be used to diagnose stomach cancer. They include:
- Gastroscopy – is done by passing a thin and flexible tube down the patient’s throat to see into the stomach, your bowel’s upper part and the esophagus.
- Barium x-ray – the patient is made to swallow barium liquid, which shows up on x-ray screens as it passes through the stomach as well as the digestive system. This easily reveals any abnormalities in the stomach.
- Biopsy – is done by the removal of a small sample of the stomach during an endoscopy, and is assessed under a microscope.
- Blood tests – include a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test. CEA is present in high amounts in some cancerous cells. It occurs in almost half of the number of people identified with cancer of the stomach.
- Ultrasound – sound waves are used to create a picture of your stomach.
Treatments of Stomach Cancer
The treatment option used to treat cancer of the stomach mostly depends on the cancer stage, general health and preference.
Surgery is done to get rid of all cancers in the stomach and also margins of healthy tissues if possible. There are several options, which include:
- Removal of tumors in the early stage is when small cancer tumors are removed from the lining of the stomach through endoscopy mucosal resection.
- Removal of a stomachportion is also referred to as subtotal gastrectomy where the surgeon eliminates the part of the stomach that is affected by the tumor.
- Removal of the full stomach involves getting rid of the full stomach and also some surrounding tissues. The esophagus is directly connected to the small intestines for digestion purposes.
- Removal of lymph nodes.Here, the lymph nodes on the abdomen are removed to be examined for the presence cancer cells.
- Surgery for relieving symptoms.It is possible for a portion of the stomach to be removed as a way of relieving symptoms of stomach cancer. This is done in a case where the tumor is growing, which is common in people suffering from advanced cancer of the stomach.
It is possible for radiation therapy to be prescribed before surgery as a way of shrinking the tumor to make it easier to remove. Radiation is done using high power beams of energy like x-ray as a way of killing the cells.
This is a type of drug treatment that makes use of medical chemicals to destroy cancer cells. This is also a measure that can be administered before surgery as a way of shrinking the tumor and thus making it easier to remove.
4. Use of Targeted Drugs
The use of these drugs is done to attack abnormalities in cancer cells.These drugs include:
- Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is used to treat cancerous stomach cells that are found to be producing excess HER2.
- Imatinib (Gleevec) is used to treat an uncommon form of cancer of the stomach named gastrointestinal stromal tumor.
- Sunitinib (Sutent) is for treating gastrointestinal stromal tumor.
Doing tests on the cancer cells helps determine if these treatments will work for you.
Watch a video to learn something about the stomach cancer diet: