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Stomach Cancer


Cancers arising from the stomach generally develop slowly over the years. Different parts of the stomach which are affected by cancer have different symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Although the exact cause is now known, scientists believe that the rise in stomach cancer has been brought about due to the increasing consumption of frozen foods. Some doctors also believe that due to the over-use of antibiotics, the normal bacteria helicobacter pylori is also destroyed, which is one of the major reasons for cancer.

Other risk factors contributing to stomach cancer are:

  • Age: it is generally seen that there is a sharp increase in the incidence of stomach cancer after the age of 50 years
  • Gender: stomach cancer is more common in men than in women
  • Ethnicity: Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders are more prone to stomach cancer
  • Geography: Japan, China, Southern and Eastern Europe, and South and Central America is where stomach cancer is most common.
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Stomach lymphoma
  • Diet: Diets that have large amounts of smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and pickled vegetables are more likely to get stomach cancer
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Previous stomach surgery
  • Family history
  • Certain occupations: Workers in the coal, metal, and rubber industries seem to have a higher risk of getting stomach cancer.
  • Type A blood group

Symptoms

One of the reasons stomach cancer is so hard to detect early is because earlier stages of stomach cancer does not show symptoms. The signs & symptoms of stomach cancer include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vague discomfort in the abdomen (especially near the naval)
  • Sense of fullness even after a small meal
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting with or without blood
  • Swelling or fluid build up in abdomen
  • Blood in stool
  • Anemia

Diagnosis

Stomach cancers are usually diagnosed when the patient comes with symptoms to the doctor for investigation. Diagnosis will begin with a detailed medical history and physical examination. Further investigations for stomach cancer may include:

  • Upper endoscopy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging tests
    • Upper GI series
    • CT Scan
    • MRI Scan
    • PET Scan
  • Laparoscopy
  • Blood testing

Treatment

The treatment options for stomach cancer are:

  • Surgery
    • Endoscopic resection : This procedure does not require a cut in the abdomen. A long flexible tube is passed down the throat and small surgical tools are used through the flexible tube to remove the stomach tumor.
    • Subtotal (Partial) Gastrectomy: Removal of part of the stomach
    • Total Gastrectomy: Removal of the entire stomach
    • Placement of feeding tube: this feeding tube bypasses the stomach and is placed in the jejunum which is part of the small intestine.
    • Palliative surgery for unresectable cancers: usually performed to help relieve symptoms rather than remove the cancer as it would have already spread.
    • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted Therapies
  • Immunotherapy : these drugs help the person’s own immune system to fight the cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy

Authored By : Dr. Shiva Kumar Uppala

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