Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a cancer which develops from the lining of the stomach. Early symptoms may include heartburn, upper abdominal pain, nausea and loss of appetite.
Stomach cancer is more readily treated at early stage. Unfortunately, by the time stomach cancer causes symptoms, it’s often at an advanced stage and may have spread beyond the stomach. Yet there is encouraging news. You can reduce your risk of stomach cancer by making a few changes in your lifestyle. It is hard to diagnose stomach cancer in its early stages. Indigestion and stomach discomfort can be symptoms of early cancer, but other problems can cause the same symptoms. In advanced cases, there may be blood in your stool, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, jaundice or trouble swallowing.
Study in Index
Stomach cancer is more common in developing nations, while becoming less common in Western countries including Australia. At present, stomach cancer is still the fourth most common cause of death from cancer. There appear to be two types of gastric (stomach) cancer. Cancer of the stomach, or gastric cancer, is a disease in which stomach cells become malignant (cancerous) and grow out of control, forming a tumor. Almost all stomach cancers (95%) start in the glandular tissue that lines the stomach. The tumor may spread along the stomach wall or may grow directly through the wall and shed cells into the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Once beyond the stomach, cancer can spread to other organs.
Cells from malignant tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancer cells spread by breaking away from the original tumor and entering the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. The cells invade other organs and form new tumors that damage these organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis. There are about 9,000 new cases of stomach cancer diagnosed every year and it’s more common in men, particularly in late middle age. Stomoch cancer is on the decrease and is now about half as common as it was 30 years ago.
Development of stomach cancer
Stomach cancers tend to develop slowly over many years. Before a true cancer develops, pre-cancerous changes often occur in the inner lining (mucosa) of the stomach. These early changes rarely cause symptoms and therefore often go undetected.
Cancers starting in different sections of the stomach may cause different symptoms and tend to have different outcomes. The cancer’s location can also affect the treatment options. For example, cancers that start at the GE junction are staged and treated the same as cancers of the esophagus. A cancer that starts in the cardia of the stomach but then grows into the GE junction is also staged and treated like a cancer of the esophagus. (For more information, see Esophagus Cancer.)
Types of stomach cancers
Most (about 90% to 95%) cancers of the stomach are adenocarcinomas. A stomach cancer or gastric cancer almost always is an adenocarcinoma. These cancers develop from the cells that form the innermost lining of the stomach (the mucosa).
These are cancers of the immune system tissue that are sometimes found in the wall of the stomach. The treatment and outlook depend on the type of lymphoma. For more detailed information, see Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
These rare tumors start in very early forms of cells in the wall of the stomach called interstitial cells of Cajal. Some of these tumors are non-cancerous (benign); others are cancerous. Although GISTs can be found anywhere in the digestive tract, most are found in the stomach. For more information, see Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST).
These tumors start in hormone-making cells of the stomach. Most of these tumors do not spread to other organs. These tumors are discussed in more detail in Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors.
Other types of cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma, can also start in the stomach, but these cancers are very rare.
Causes of Stomach Cancer
Tobacco and alcohol use. Tobacco use can irritate the stomach lining, which may help explain why smokers have twice the rate of stomach cancer that nonsmokers do. Alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer, but the link between the two isn’t clear.
Type A blood: Blood type groups refer to certain substances that are normally present on the surface of red blood cells and some other types of cells. These groups are important in matching blood for transfusions. For unknown reasons, people with type A blood have a higher risk of getting stomach cancer.
Cancer can either be malignant or benign. Benign cancer is curable, meaning that there is some medical way of being able to provide a curing solution to the cancer-hit part of the body. On the other hand, malignant cancer is a lot more serious since this means that cancer has developed into something complicated where medical resources have close to lesser chances of medicinal resolution.
People who have pernicious anaemia (an autoimmune condition where the lining of the stomach becomes thin, less acid is produced and anaemia develops due to lack of vitamin B12), atrophic gastritis, or a hereditary condition of growths in the stomach are at a higher risk of developing this type of cancer.
A diet high in salt and nitrates and low in vitamins A and C increases the risk for stomach cancer. Other dietary risk factors include food preparation (e.g., preserving food by smoking, salt-curing, pickling, or drying) and environment (e.g., lack of refrigeration, poor drinking water). A diet high in raw fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits, and fiber may lower the risk for stomach cancer.
Stomach polyps may become cancerous (malignant) and are thus removed. Adenocarcinoma of the stomach is particularly likely to develop if the polyps consist of glandular cells, if the polyps are larger than ¾ inch (2 centimeters), or if several polyps exist.
Exposure to certain dusts, molds, fumes, and other environmental agents at home or in the workplace has been linked to a higher than average risk of stomach cancer.Some experts believe that smoking might increase stomach cancer risk.
Stomach Cancer Prevention
There is no sure way to prevent stomach cancer, but there are things you can do that could lower your risk.
Diet, nutrition and physical activity to prevent Stomach Cancer
The dramatic decline of stomach cancer in the past several decades is thought to be a result of people reducing many of the known dietary risk factors. This includes greater use of refrigeration for food storage rather than preserving foods by salting, pickling, and smoking. To help reduce your risk, avoid a diet that is high in smoked and pickled foods and salted meats and fish.
A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables can also lower stomach cancer risk. Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit) may be especially helpful, but grapefruit and grapefruit juice can change the blood levels of certain drugs you take, so it’s important to discuss this with your health care team before adding grapefruit to your diet.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods. This includes eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits every day. Choosing whole-grain breads, pastas, and cereals instead of refined grains, and eating fish, poultry, or beans instead of processed meat and red meat may also help lower your risk of cancer.
Studies that have looked at using dietary supplements to lower stomach cancer risk have had mixed results so far. Some studies have suggested that combinations of antioxidant supplements (vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral selenium) might reduce the risk of stomach cancer in people with poor nutrition to begin with. But most studies looking at people who have good nutrition have not found any benefit to adding vitamin pills to their diet. Further research in this area is needed.
Although some small studies suggested that drinking tea, particularly green tea, may help protect against stomach cancer, most large studies have not found such a link.
Being overweight or obese may add to the risk of stomach cancer. On the other hand, being physically active may help lower your risk.
The American Cancer Society recommends staying at a healthy weight throughout life by balancing calorie intake with physical activity. Aside from possible effects on the risk of stomach cancer, losing weight and being active may also have an effect on the risk of several other cancers and health problems. The full recommendations can be found in the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.
Avoiding tobacco use
Tobacco use can increase the risk of cancers of the proximal stomach (the portion of the stomach closest to the esophagus). Tobacco use increases the risk for many other types of cancer and is responsible for about one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. If you already do and want help quitting, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
Treating H pylori infection
It is not yet clear if people whose stomach linings are chronically infected with the H pylori bacteria but who do not have any symptoms should be treated with antibiotics. This is a topic of current research. Some early studies have suggested that giving antibiotics to people with H pylori infection might lower the number of pre-cancerous lesions in the stomach and reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer. But not all studies have found this. More research is needed to be sure that this is a way to prevent stomach cancer in people with H pylori infection.
If your doctor thinks you might have H pylori infection, there are several ways to test for this:
- The simplest way is a blood test that looks for antibodies to H pylori. Antibodies are proteins the body’s immune system makes in response to an infection. A positive H pylori antibody test result can mean either that you are infected with H pylori or that you had an infection in the past that is now cleared.
- Another approach is to have an endoscopy procedure to take a biopsy sample of the stomach lining. This sample can be used for chemical tests for this kind of bacteria. Doctors can also identify H pylori in biopsy samples seen with a microscope. The biopsy sample can also be cultured (placed in a substance that promotes bacterial growth) to see if H pylori grows out of the sample.
- There is also a special breath test for the bacteria. For this test, you drink a liquid containing urea. If H pylori is present, it will chemically change the urea. A sample of your breath is then tested for these chemical changes.
Cancers are a bit different to each other’s but the fears and worries patients have is similar. The best option to reduce stress and focus on proper treatment of cancer is to know more about it.
Find below cancer guides so that you are made aware of important aspects of it.