Stomach Cancer Symptoms and Treatment
Stomach cancer is a disease that is much more common worldwide than it is within the United States, although the disease will still affect around 21,700 Americans on an annual basis and will be the cause of around 11,200 deaths a year in the USA. Also known as gastric cancer, stomach cancer is a disease that generally speaking tends to affect older people – approximately two thirds of people with stomach cancer are aged 65 years of age or older, and the average age at the time that stomach cancer is diagnosed is 71.
There is a risk of about 1 in 100 of developing stomach cancer in a person’s lifetime and although the disease affects people of both sexes the risk is slightly higher in men than it is in women
Causes of Stomach Cancer
The cause of this type of cancer is not known and is the subject of ongoing research.
Having said that, there are a number of risk factors for stomach cancer that are known to make a person more likely to get the disease, including the following:
Helicobacter pylori infection – it is thought that infection with Helicobacter pylori (which is a type of bacteria) is a cause of stomach cancer, in particular cancers which are in the lower part of the stomach.
Diet – a diet that includes large amounts of smoked foods, salted fish or meats, foods that are high in starch and low in fiber, pickled vegetables, and also foods and beverages that contain nitrates and nitrites can increase the risk of stomach cancer.
Tobacco use – the incidence of stomach cancer amongst smokers is around twice that of people who do not smoke
Age and Sex – Stomach cancer is more common amongst men than it is amongst women, and the majority of people diagnosed with stomach cancer are in their 60s or older
Other risk factors include having type A blood, having undergone previous stomach surgery, having a family history of stomach cancer, and being exposed to workplace environmental factors such as dust and fumes.
Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
One of the reasons why it is so difficult to detect stomach cancer early is because it is rare for stomach cancer to cause symptoms in the early stages.
Someone with stomach cancer may have the following symptoms: a burning sensation that may be indigestion, or heartburn; discomfort or a pain in the abdomen, bloating after eating, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting with or without blood. It is important to note that most of these symptoms are far more likely to occur with non-cancerous conditions than they are to be evidence of stomach cancer.
Your doctor will want to examine you if you suspect that you have any of the above symptoms and no other medical condition can be determined. A physical examination, and a medical history will be taken from you on your first visit. Diagnostic tests will be ordered to help rule out other diseases or conditions and to confirm the presence of stomach cancer.
Tests for Stomach Cancer
There are a number of different tests for stomach cancer including the following.
Upper Endoscopy. This is the main test used to diagnose stomach cancer and is a procedure where the doctor can examine the inside of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum by placing a thin lighted tube, called an endoscope, down your throat. A sample tissue may be taken to be sent for biopsy.
Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. This is an x-ray test that looks at the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine. This is the test that requires you to drink a solution that contains barium.
Fecal occult blood test, which is when you place a small stool sample on a special card. The sample is tested in the doctor’s office or may be sent to a laboratory for testing.
Another test is the endoscopic ultrasound, which is an imaging technique where sound waves are used to create a computer image for the doctor to look at your esophagus and stomach . For this procedure a small transducer is placed on the tip of an endoscope which goes down the throat and is guided into the stomach.
Stomach Cancer Treatment
Treatment for stomach cancer if you have it may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and also surgery to remove any cancerous tissue. A gastrectomy may be done to remove part of the stomach.
The treatment an individual patient receives will depend on many factors, including the location and stage of the tumor, the patient’s age, general state of health, and personal preferences.