As much as we do not like to talk about cancer in any form, we should know the basics to be able to recognize possible symptoms, which in turn may help prevent the cancer from reaching an advanced stage where treatment is difficult or too late.
Stomach cancer begins in the mucus producing cells lining the stomach, with the most common type called Adenocarcinoma, which constitutes about 90 – 95% of stomach cancers.
The other types of stomach cancers are Lymphomas (1-5%), Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (2%), Carcinoids (1%), Adenoacanthomas (1%) and Squamous Cell Carcinomas (1%).
Stomach cancer doesn’t typically show symptoms in the early stages, making it very difficult to diagnose early. It is often detected and diagnosed after it spreads to other parts of the body, making treatment more difficult. Therefore, it is very important that people have some knowledge of its possible symptoms.
Causes and symptoms of stomach cancer
The stomach is only one part of the upper section of the digestive tract, and it takes care of digesting food, after which the nutrients are moved along to the small and large intestines.
As with all cancers, stomach cancer happens when healthy cells in the upper digestive system rapidly mutate out of control and accumulate to form a tumor that grows. Stomach cancer has a slow formation process which normally allows it to reach an advanced stage in a few years before it is detected.
The most common symptoms of advanced stomach cancer include:
- constantly fatigued
- frequent heartburn
- feeling full after eating a small amount of food (early satiety), often accompanied by stomach pain
- loss of appetite which in turn causes sudden weight loss
- nausea & vomiting
- blood in stools
Stomach cancer has been found to be prevalent in older adults; more so in men than women. Demographically, research has also shown stomach cancer occurs more in Japanese, Korean and South American people.
Certain factors that may increase your risk of developing stomach cancer will include:
- family history
- previous stomach surgery to treat ulcers
- Pernicious Anemia – a vitamin B12 anemia
- Adenomatous – stomach polyps, i.e., abnormal growths of tissue on the stomach lining
- bacterial infection or MALT lymphoma caused by Helicobacter Pylori
- Menetrier disease – a rare disease that causes changes in the stomach lining
- diet – processed fish and meats, foods high in salt, and pickled vegetables
- obesity / overweight
- work environments – there is a higher risk for workers in the metal, rubber and coal industries
Various stages of stomach cancer
Stage I: the tumor is located on the top layer of the lining of the esophagus or stomach. It may have spread to some lymph nodes close by.
Stage II: the tumor has spread into the deeper layer of muscle in the esophagus or stomach wall, and to more of the lymph nodes.
Stage III: the tumor has penetrated through all the layers of the esophagus and stomach and gone on to attack nearby parts or lymph nodes.
Stage IV: the cancer has advanced and managed to spread out to distant areas of the body.
Treatment options for stomach cancer
After diagnosis, your oncologist will suggest treatment options that will depend on your age, overall health, stage and origin of the stomach cancer.
Traditional treatments consist of:
- radiation therapy
- targeted drugs
Immunotherapy is a fairly new form of treatment where the patient is treated with medication to make the patient’s own immune system respond to cancer cells as they would to foreign invaders e.g., viruses or bacterial infections.
Left untreated, stomach cancer will advance to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, lymph nodes or liver.
If your cancer is diagnosed to be in an advanced stage, you may want to consider a long shot by asking your doctor if you can participate in clinical trials.
Chances for recovery from cancer or any disease for that matter, are better if it is diagnosed as early as possible. Cancer cannot be prevented, but the risks can be lowered.
The best options to lower your risk of getting not just stomach cancer, but all cancers, would be to follow a healthy lifestyle. If you have not done so already, simple changes have to be made in the following areas:
- weight control – this can be done with a good exercise routine.
- diet – eat a well-balanced and low-fat diet. Don’t deprive yourself, but instead limit treats for special occasions.
- quit alcohol and smoking.
We hope this article has provided our readers some useful general knowledge on stomach cancer. Please contact your doctor or oncologist for more detailed advice, as all information provided in our article should in no way be taken as medical advice.
19th August 19:50 2020