Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the stomach. It typically starts in the cells that line the innermost layer of the stomach and can grow and spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
It is a deadly disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a part of the digestive system that helps in the digestion of food. Despite its high mortality rate, many people are unaware of the symptoms, risk factors, and preventative measures that can help detect and treat this disease early.
In this article, we will discuss in detail about stomach cancer and explore the various warning signs indicating its presence. From unexplained weight loss to persistent abdominal pain, we will examine the most common symptoms and explain why they should never be ignored. So, let’s unmask the silent killer and learn how to stay healthy and cancer-free.
Types of Stomach Cancer
There are several types of stomach cancer, including –
- Adenocarcinoma – This is the most common type of stomach cancer, accounting for about 90-95% of cases. It develops in the cells that line the innermost layer of the stomach.
- Lymphoma – This type of stomach cancer starts in the lymphatic tissue of the stomach wall. It helps in fighting off germs and infections in the body
Types of Stomach Cancer
3. A gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) -This is a rare type of stomach cancer that develops in the cells of the connective tissue of the stomach wall.
4. Carcinoid tumor -This is a rare type of stomach cancer that develops in the hormone-producing cells of the stomach. They are found in neuroendocrine cells that do nerve cell functioning of the body that also helps in the production of hormones.
5. Squamous cell carcinoma – This is a rare type of stomach cancer that develops in the cells that line the upper part of the stomach.
It’s worth noting that stomach cancer can also be classified based on its location within the stomach (e.g- the cardia, body, antrum, or pylorus). The treatment and prognosis for stomach cancer will be further classified depending on the type and stage of cancer by a healthcare professional.
Causes and Risk Factors
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing stomach cancer, including –
- Age – The risk of developing stomach cancer increases as you get older, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 50.
- Gender – Men are more likely to develop stomach cancer than women.
- Helicobacter pylori infection -This is a type of bacterial infection that can lead to stomach inflammation and increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
- Family history – People with a family history of stomach cancer are at higher risk of developing the disease themselves.
- Smoking – Smokers have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer than non-smokers.
- Diet – A diet high in salty and smoked foods, as well as low in fruits and vegetables, may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
Symptoms of stomach cancer can include –
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Feeling full or bloated after eating small amounts of food
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Blood in the stool
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for necessary evaluation. Treatments for stomach cancer typically involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, and the specific approach will depend on the stage and location of the cancer.
Stages of Stomach cancer
Stomach cancer is classified into stages based on how far it has spread. There are four stages of stomach cancer –
Stage 0 – In stage 0, cancer cells are found only in the inner lining of the stomach.
Stage I – In stage I, cancer cells have spread beyond the inner lining of the stomach to the next layer of tissue.
Stage II – In stage II, cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes near the stomach.
Stage III – In stage III, cancer cells have spread to nearby organs, such as the liver or pancreas.
Stage IV – In stage IV, cancer cells have spread to distant organs, such as the lungs or bones.
Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages because symptoms are not that apparent or may be mistaken for other conditions.
Here are some common methods used for the diagnosis of stomach cancer:
- Physical Exam – Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for any signs of swelling or lumps in your abdomen.
- Medical History – Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and any symptoms you are experiencing.
- Imaging Tests – Imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or PET scan can help detect abnormalities or growths in the stomach.
- Biopsy – A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. This is often done using an endoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light on the end.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests can help detect certain substances that may indicate the presence of cancer.
Once, the stomach cancer is diagnosed, additional tests may be done by your healthcare professional to determine the stage, type of cancer, and the best treatment options. It is important to work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.
Treatments for Stomach Cancer
The choice of treatments for stomach cancer will depend on several factors, including the stage of cancer, the size and location of the tumor, and the overall health of the patient. Here are some of the common treatments for stomach cancer –
- Surgery – Surgery is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. Depending on the stage and location of cancer, surgery may involve removing part or all of the stomach (partial or total gastrectomy) and nearby lymph nodes. In some cases, surgery may also involve removing other organs that are affected by the cancer, such as the spleen or pancreas.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery to shrink the tumor or to kill any remaining cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy may also be used to control the symptoms of advanced stomach cancer.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor or to kill any remaining cancer cells. In some cases, radiation therapy may also be used to control the symptoms of advanced stomach cancer.
- Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy involves using drugs that target specific molecules or proteins that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Targeted therapy may be used in combination with chemotherapy or as a standalone treatment for advanced stomach cancer.
- Immunotherapy -Immunotherapy involves using drugs that stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells. Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment for stomach cancer, and it may be used in combination with chemotherapy or as a standalone treatment for advanced stomach cancer.
It’s important to note that treatment for stomach cancer is highly individualized, and the best course of treatment will depend on the specific characteristics of cancer in a patient. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your options and the potential risks involved for the benefits of each treatment.
Prevention Strategies for Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, can be prevented through various lifestyle and dietary changes. Here are some measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing stomach cancer –
- Eat a healthy diet – Consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce the risk of stomach cancer. Avoid consuming processed foods, red meat, and fried foods as they have been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol – Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of stomach cancer. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can help reduce your risk.
- Treat Helicobacter pylori infection – H. pylori is a common bacterial infection that can cause stomach inflammation and increase the risk of stomach cancer. If you have an H. pylori infection, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat it.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of many cancers, including stomach cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet can help reduce your risk.
- Regular medical check-ups – Regular check-ups with your doctor can help detect early signs of stomach cancer. It is recommended that people at higher risk, such as those with a family history of stomach cancer, get screened regularly.
By adopting these measures, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing stomach cancer.
Stomach cancer is a fatal disease that can be difficult to diagnose and treat, especially when it is not detected early. However, by understanding the symptoms, risk factors, and preventative measures, you can take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from this dangerous disease. Also, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of stomach cancer, it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible. It is necessary to take proactive steps to prevent and detect stomach cancer, so you can stay healthy and cancer-free.