Stomach cancer or gastric cancer is a type of cancer, in which normal cells of the inner lining of the stomach are converted into cancer cells and grow out of control. However, the stomach is an essential part of the human body. If stomach function gets disturbed, it also affects other systems of the body.
Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer usually does not show any symptoms in the early stages. However, in the late stages, it shows symptoms as follows.
- Stomach pain /pain in the upper abdomen commonly known as gastric pain is due to inner damage to the gastric lining.
- Heartburn. Due to the excessive excretion of acidic juices in the stomach
- A feeling of fullness: It may be due to inflammation inside the stomach
- Bloating after having a meal due to indigestion
- The feeling of nausea and vomit
- Weight loss: Due to low intake and because of pain patient loses weight very easily
- Dry skin: Due to decreased water /fluid intake patient becomes dehydrated and the skin looks dry.
- Black stools due to bleeding from the internal lining of the stomach stool color look black.
- Getting tired very quickly: Due to decreased oral intake. Moreover, energy is consumed by cancer cells.
- The patient feels weakness and low energy.
Risk Factors:/Causes of Stomach Cancer:
The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown but it is clear that if something irritates or injures the inner lining of the stomach it leads to cancer. Some risk factors which disturb the inner lining are as follows:
- Heavy cigarette smoking: Research suggests that smoking doubles the risk of gastric cancer
- Heavy alcohol drink: A recent study suggests that alcohol contains some chemicals that cause local toxicity in the stomach and lead to cancer.
- Very spicy food: Spicy food also promotes irritation in the gastric lining.
- Using preserved or processed food all the time
- Heavy consumption of fatty food: Studies suggest that a high-fat diet alters the composition of gastric microbes which may lead to cancerous changes in the gastric lining and cause cancer.
- Family History: Having a family history of stomach cancer, liver cancer, or intestinal cancer
- Helicobacter pylori infection (H-Pylori): Recurrent stomach infections caused mainly by the H-Pylori bacterium lead to stomach cancer due to continued irritation to the gastric lining.
- Heavy use of acidic drinks causes irritation in internal linings and may lead to stomach cancer.
Who is at High Risk of Developing Stomach Cancer?
Older people aged between 60 and 70 or above are at higher risk for gastric cancer. Moreover, the incidence is higher in males than females.
How One Can Prevent it?
Healthy living may reduce the risk of stomach cancer. which may include:
- Doing regular exercise,
- Maintaining a healthy weight,
- Encourage healthy eating (fruits and vegetables)
- Avoid fatty and spicy food
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Proper water intake (should not be so warm or so cold )
- Avoid the use of frozen food
- Get treatment for H-pylori infection on time.
- Use a diet rich in antioxidants or an anti-cancer diet
Diagnosis of Stomach Cancer:
On the basis of your symptoms, your physician will do a complete physical examination and health history. Which will explore your symptoms, and on the basis of symptoms, may suggest some tests
Stool for occult blood /stool routine examination.
If you have black stool this is an indication of gastric bleeding
Complete a Blood Count:
to check your hemoglobin level in case of bleeding.
In case of suspected gastric cancer, a gastroenterologist will perform a gastric biopsy followed by an endoscopy.
Magnetic resonance image (MRI)/CT scan:
MRI and CT to identify the spread of disease to nearby organs or all over the body e.g. Liver, gall bladder, pancreas, breast intestines, and lymph nodes.
- Gastric Tissue Biopsy:
- followed by endoscopy a small piece of gastric tissue is taken for detailed study of tissue changes. If cancer cells are detected in the biopsy patient will be diagnosed with gastric cancer and referred to an oncologist who is specialized in solid tumor malignancies.
- Barium swallow test.
Treatment and Management:
Depending upon the staging of the cancer your oncologists will offer a suitable treatment.
Surgical Management/ Partial Gastrectomy: If the tumor is localized to only one part of your stomach surgeon will cut only that part and nearby lymph nodes to ensure no cancer residual. This will be performed by an oncological surgeon.
- Complete Gastrectomy: If the tumor has covered a more significant portion of the stomach, the whole stomach will be removed this is done if the cancer doesn’t spread to other parts. In this case, the surgeon also removes nearby lymph nodes.
Medical Management: In medical management following are the treatment options
- Chemotherapy: is given to kill the cancer cells and to shrink the tumor size before surgery and after surgery.
- Immunotherapy: The patient’s immunity is boosted to fight cancer cells by using immunotherapy drugs
- Targeted therapy: Drugs target the cancer cells to inhibit their growth and kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: A heavy beam of radiation is used to kill cancer cells or shrink the tumor to ease the symptoms
- Palliative Treatment: If cancer is spread to other organs like bones, liver, intestines, and lymph nodes, your physician will not go for surgery chemotherapy, or other treatment options, At this stage a treatment called palliative care in which the patient will be given comfort care only. For example, relieving pain, and fever, nutrition supplements, etc.
However gastric cancer is most leading cause of death worldwide. Early disease detection can have better results as there is advancement in treatment in medical.