Stomach Cancer

Adenocarcinomas are the most common stomach cancers which develop in the cells of the stomach’s lining, often following a precancerous change in this lining.

Primary gastric lymphoma is rare and accounts of less than 15% of stomach cancers and about 2% of all lymphomas. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are also rare tumors that most commonly involve the stomach. Carcinoid tumors are also uncommon cancers that can affect the stomach and arise from the hormone producing cells of the stomach.

Statistics

  • Stomach cancer is generally more common in men with 707 men and 436 women dying of stomach cancer in 2012.
  • The survival rates of stomach cancer have increased in recent years from 17.2 percent to 27 percent in 2011.

Causes

  • Age: Most individuals who develop stomach cancer are older than 55 years of age.
  • Helicobacter pylori: Infection of the stomach by H. pylori bacteria, a common cause of ulcers, is believed to significantly increase one’s cancer risk.
  • Smoking and alcohol abuse: both smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol appear to increase the likelihood of cancer in the upper part of the stomach.
  • Genetic disposition: Immediate family members of those diagnosed with stomach cancer are at increased risk for developing the disease. Other genetic risk factors include hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, conditions that result in a predisposition to cancer. Having type A blood appears to slightly increase the risk for stomach cancer.
  • Medical Conditions: People with pernicious anemia are 5-10% more likely to develop stomach cancer. Those with chronic stomach inflammation and intestinal polyps are also at increased risk for the disease.
  • Gender: The majority of stomach cancer patients are male.

Symptoms

stomach-cancer-symptoms_for_web

Signs and symptoms of this type of cancer may include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Feeling of fullness after eating small amounts of food
  • Black stools
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Low iron
  • Unexplained tiredness or weakness
  • Blood in vomit

Having one or more of the symptoms listed above does not necessarily mean you have this type of cancer. It is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor.

Tests

Various investigations may be performed depending on the symptoms leading to the diagnosis of cancer and for determination of the extent of cancer.  Some tests that may be performed according to the cancer type include:

  • Ultrasound, CT or PET scan
  • Bone scan
  • Laparoscopy

Treatment

Once the diagnosis is made, cancer removal when possible would be the best treatment option in the majority of cases.

Surgery is an option when treating stomach cancer which often involves removal of tumors, portions of the stomach and neighbouring lymph nodes. Depending on the stage of the tumor, similar results can be achieved either as an open operation or keyhole surgery. Frequently, treatment of stomach cancer involves a combination of chemotherapy and surgery.

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