Stomach cancer is cancer that occurs in the stomach- the organ between the esophagus and the small intestine. The stomach is responsible for holding foods eaten and breaking them down with stomach acid. This makes it easier for the rest of the digestive system to absorb nutrients from food.
There are different types of stomach cancer. The cells which form the tumor inside an individual’s body determine the type of stomach cancer an individual is suffering from.
- Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that occurs in the glandular cells (the most common type of stomach cancer)
- Lymphoma: Cancer that occurs in immune system cells
- Carcinoidcancer: Cancer that occurs in hormone-producing cells
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumor: Cancer that occurs in the nervous system tissues
In general, stomach cancer mostly affects older individuals and is most common in China and Japan. Treatment options for stomach cancer depend on the type of cancer an individual has, the stage of the cancer and their overall health.
Common signs and symptoms of stomach cancer may include:
- Feeling tired
- Feeling sick and vomiting persistently
- Feeling bloated/full
- Having stomach pain
- Having severe heartburn
- Losing weight unintentionally
Although the exact cause of stomach cancer remains unknown, there is a strong link among salted and smoked foods and stomach cancer. Cancer in general occurs when there is an error in a cell’s DNA. This change causes the cells to grow and divide abnormally and continue to grow in times when a normal cell would die. The abnormal accumulations of cancerous cells form a tumor that can invade nearby organs and cause complications.
Factors that increase the risk of developing stomach cancer include the following:
- Eating foods high in salt
- Eating smoked foods
- Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Eating foods contaminated with aflatoxin fungus
- Being a smoker
- Having a family history of stomach cancer
- Having stomach polyps
- Having pernicious anemia
- Having a infection with Helicobacter pylori
- Having long term stomach inflammation
Treatment options for stomach cancer varies depending on the stage of the cancer, an individual’s overall health and their preferences. The stage of a cancer refers to how much it has grown and whether the tumor has spread from its original location. Options for treatment include:
- Endoscopic mucosal resection: A surgical procedure that involves the removal of early stage tumors from the stomach lining.
- Subtotal gastrectomy: A surgical procedure that involves the removal of a portion of the stomach affected by the cancer.
- Total gastrectomy: A surgical procedure that involves the removal of the entire stomach.
- Surgical removal of lymph nodes: A surgical procedure designed to remove lymph nodes in order to look for cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy: A type of therapy that involves the removal of hormones in the body or blocking their effects.
- Radiation therapy: A type of therapy that uses high powered energy beams such as X-rays to kill remaining cancer cells after surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A type of therapy that involves the use of anti-cancerous drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given before surgery to help shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any cancer cells that might remain in the body.
- Targeted drug therapy: A type of therapy that involves the use of drug treatments on specific abnormalities within cancer cells.
- Clinical trials: Studies of new treatments and new ways of using existing treatments.
Although there is no way to fully prevent stomach cancer, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk. These include:
- Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Reducing the amount of salt intake in certain foods
- Quitting smoking
- Regularly monitoring and controlling any changes that might occur in the stomach