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Everything You Need to Know About Stomach Cancer

Gain comprehensive insights into stomach cancer, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

  • 13 Sep 2023
  • 5 min read
  • 151 views

Our stomach plays a vital role in digesting food. Situated in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the stomach is just one part of the long tube that essentially begins at our mouth and ends at the anus, the exit point for waste. Enzymes and digestive juices combine to break down food, easing its movement into the small intestine. Hence, the onset of stomach cancer can cause significant discomfort and emotional stress by disrupting the stomach’s functions. Detecting stomach cancer in its early stages can help overcome it and significantly improve the overall quality of life.

 

What is Stomach Cancer?

Gastric cancer, often known as stomach cancer, involves the abnormal growth of cells that usually begins in the stomach lining. Stomach cancer can develop in any part of your stomach. Most cases of stomach cancer develop in the main section of your stomach, referred to as the stomach body.
Lymphomas, or cancers that originate from immune cells called lymphocytes, can begin in your stomach's wall. Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) can start from primitive cells in your stomach's wall called interstitial cells of Cajal. Some GISTs tend to invade nearby areas or metastasise. Roughly, 90% to 95% of stomach cancer instances are categorised as adenocarcinomas. These cancer types originate from the epithelial cells that make up the innermost lining of your stomach, called the mucosa.

Symptoms of Stomach Cancer

The following are some of the common gastric cancer symptoms.
• Your bowel habits might change, either with more frequent trips or having difficulty passing stool
• You might feel fullness or a bloated sensation after eating
• Your desire to eat might decrease
• You might sense food getting stuck in your throat when eating
• You could experience pain or uneasiness in your stomach area
• You might feel discomfort or a burning sensation in your upper abdomen
In more advanced stages of the tumour in stomach, you might experience more severe stomach tumour symptoms, such as:
• A possibility of vomiting blood or noticing blood in your stool
• Loss of a significant amount of weight without any apparent reason
• Feelings of extreme tiredness and lack of energy

 

Causes of Stomach Cancer

Several of the following factors can trigger tumour in stomach.
• Inheriting genetic mutations such as those causing familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer heightens the likelihood of cancer
• A family history of stomach cancer increases your susceptibility
• A diet rich in smoked, pickled, and salted foods while lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables increases your risk
• If you have had a partial gastrectomy for ulcer disease, your risk can be higher, especially after about two decades
• Remember that regular alcohol consumption is generally linked to a greater likelihood of cancer
• If you are aged 60 and above, you become more vulnerable to this type of cancer

How is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?

The following are some of the common methods used to diagnose gastric cancer.

Utilising X-rays from various angles, a CT scan constructs detailed 3D images of your body's interior. A contrast medium (dye) may be used to enhance image clarity, which can be either swallowed or injected into a vein to improve image quality. An MRI employs magnetic fields to create detailed body images.

Endoscopic Ultrasound combines endoscopy with ultrasound imaging to visualise internal organs. Ultrasound waves create images that help doctors assess the extent of the cancer spread to nearby organs and tissues.

Laparoscopy is a popular minor surgical procedure that involves inserting a laparoscope into your abdomen to check for cancer spread in the abdominal lining or liver. These areas might not be easily detected by CT or PET scans. In PET-CT Scan, a radioactive sugar substance is introduced into your body. Energy-consuming cells, including cancer cells, absorb this substance. A PET-CT scan combines PET and CT scans to create images revealing areas of active energy use.

For a barium swallow test, you need to consume a liquid containing barium to enhance the visibility of abnormalities during X-ray imaging. A biopsy procedure typically involves removing a small tissue sample for microscopic examination. While other tests might suggest the presence of cancer, only a biopsy procedure can confirm the diagnosis definitively.

Your doctor examines your body's interior by using a gastroscope or endoscope, a flexible tube with a light. A tissue sample can be taken for biopsy to detect signs of cancer.

Also read:

How is Stomach Cancer Treated?

The following are some of the most common gastric cancer treatment methods.

Immunotherapy leverages your body's natural defence mechanisms to combat cancer by enhancing your immune system's ability to target and eliminate cancer cells. HER2-targeted therapy option is suitable for cancers producing excess human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) protein. Combining certain medications and chemotherapy can be successful in cases of previously untreated HER2-positive stomach cancer that is either metastatic or unsuitable for surgical removal.

Radiation therapy utilises high-energy X-rays or other particles to eliminate cancer cells. This treatment involves a predetermined number of sessions administered over a specific period. Radiation therapy can be applied prior to surgery to shrink the tumour. It can also be administered post-surgery to eradicate remaining cancer cells. During the initial stages, when the cancer is confined to the stomach, surgery aims to deal with the affected part of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes. This procedure is termed subtotal or partial gastrectomy. It typically involves reconnecting the remaining portion of the stomach to either the oesophagus or the small intestine.

Surgery combined with chemotherapy or chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be recommended if the cancer has spread to the outer stomach wall, with or without affecting the lymph nodes. The anti-angiogenesis therapeutic approach targets angiogenesis, the process of generating new blood vessels that provide nutrients to tumours. By inhibiting angiogenesis, the aim is to "starve" the tumour.

Chemotherapy typically involves the use of drugs to target and eliminate cancer cells by impeding their growth and replication. Chemotherapy usually consists of a set number of cycles administered over a specific timeframe. You might receive one drug at a time or a combination of drugs concurrently.

The journey towards addressing stomach cancer is a collaborative effort between you and your healthcare team. Understanding the nuances of these diverse treatment methods empowers you to make informed decisions that align with your unique needs and circumstances.

Can Stomach Cancer Be Prevented?

The following are some of the commonly known ways to prevent tumour in stomach to a great extent.
• If you smoke, quit immediately. Smoking puts you at significant risk of cancer and harms others.
• Cut back on smoked and pickled foods.
• Keep an eye on any issues related to ulcers. If you are dealing with stomach ulcers, it is important to have healthcare professionals check for an H. pylori infection and provide the necessary treatment.
• Consider genetic testing if cancer runs in your family.
• Make sure to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals. This is a big deal when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are excellent choices.

Conclusion

Your stomach, a key player in the digestive process, can be vulnerable to abnormal cell growth that leads to stomach cancer. Awareness of its symptoms, risk factors, and diagnostic methods can aid in early detection and informed decision-making. Regular medical check-ups can contribute to timely intervention. Regular check-ups and cancer treatment can be costly when sourced from your wallet. Thus, to be financially secure, getting a good health insurance policy that covers such instances is highly recommended.

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