- The risk of developing stomach cancer increases with age, while men are up to two times more likely to suffer from the disease than women.
- Gas, bloating or regularly suffering from indigestion, as well as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and a burning sensation in the chest are all potential indicators that stomach cancer is taking hold.
- A laparoscopic gastrectomy is a standardized form of surgery suitable for early stage cancer or cancer which has yet to spread. The procedure allows rapid recovery with minimal wound complications.
Stomach cancer occurs as a result of irregular and uncontrolled stomach tissue cell growth, which eventually spreads to other nearby organs. Stomach cancer can affect any area of the stomach, although successful treatment is possible should the cancer develop in certain locations.
Causes and risk factors associated with the onset of stomach cancer
The causes of stomach cancer are generally associated with a diet high in carcinogens, such as those found in processed food products and char-grilled food, but the following factors can also place anyone at a greater risk of developing the disease:
- The older we get, the greater the risk of developing stomach cancer.
- Men are up to two times more likely to suffer from the disease than women.
- Anyone with a direct relative who has suffered from stomach cancer is at increased risk.
- Being infected with H. pylori bacteria can cause stomach ulcer and lead to stomach inflammation which, if left untreated, could become chronic and result in stomach cancer.
- Previously having had stomach surgery can increase the risk of later developing stomach cancer.
- Congenital health disorders, such as some forms of anemia and chronic gastritis, are associated with increased risk.
- Prolonged exposure to air-based pollutants, chemicals and carcinogens lead to a higher risk of being affected by stomach cancer.
- Smoking regularly can increase a person’s risk of developing stomach cancer.
Symptoms of stomach cancer
Stomach cancer is extremely dangerous due to its lack of symptoms during the initial stages of the disease. This means that by the time someone finds out they have stomach cancer, it has often deteriorated to the point that it has spread to other nearby organs. For this reason, people should be on the lookout for the following symptoms: regularly suffering from gas, bloating or indigestion, as well as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and burning sensation in the chest after eating.
If these symptoms are ignored, the disease may take a tighter grip. Seek urgent medical advice should any of the following symptoms arise:
- Passing bloody stools
- Vomiting for a prolonged period
- Sudden and inexplicable loss of weight
- Stomach pain and exhaustion, especially after eating
Diagnosing stomach cancer
- Doctors will begin by inquiring about the patient’s medical history and carrying out a full body checkup.
- Samples will be taken for analysis, such as a complete blood count analysis or fibrillation test, as well as a stool sample analysis.
- Double-contrast barium swallowing can be undertaken so that any lumps or irregularities located in the stomach will show up on an X-ray image.
- Gastroscopy enables doctors to remove any suspicious tissue for analysis and, when compared to double-contrast barium swallowing, this method has been found to be more accurate.
- Endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS) allows a clear view of the stomach and provides information on which stage the disease may have already reached. A computer tomography can then give medical staff a highly detailed 3-D image of the inner organs, helping them to locate and detect the extent to which the cancer has spread.
- PET scan is a form of full body scan that offers a pathological view of the stomach, providing analysis regarding the cancer’s spread.
Treating stomach cancer
Treatment for stomach cancer differs depending on the cancer’s stage, although the following forms of treatment are the most common:
- Early stage cancer patients may not display symptoms, with the cancer instead being detected during a doctor’s appointment in relation to chronic bloating or indigestion or at an annual health checkup. Early stage cancer can be treated with endoscopic which removes the abnormal tissue from the stomach, carrying with it a high chance of success.
- Patients with cancer in its growth stage, when the disease has not yet spread to other organs, will usually be treated with surgery involving removal of the cancer and nearby lymph nodes. This form of treatment may also require a course of chemotherapy.
- Cancer which has already spread to nearby organs, such as the abdominal wall tissue, would previously have been untreatable. However, chemotherapy alongside heat treatment is currently used with HIPEC surgery, which is the process of heating chemotherapy drugs and delivering them into the abdominal cavity, thereby giving patients a better chance of survival than ever before.
- Late-stage cancer or cancer that has spread to other organs, including the lungs and liver, cannot be successfully treated with surgery or medication. Medical staff will therefore consider chemotherapy in order to manage the disease and reduce its symptoms.
Stomach cancer can currently be treated with both open surgery or laparoscopic surgery, which today is the preferred method of treatment for early stage cancer or cases where the cancer is still minimal. Laparoscopic surgery also enables patients to make a fast recovery due to the minimal scarring left. Overall treatment times in hospital are reduced, although such a procedure must be carried out by highly skilled surgeons with experience in performing laparoscopic surgery.
Doctors may also consider chemotherapy alongside surgical treatment for stomach cancer as this can reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence as well as reduce the risk of the cancer spreading to other organs. However, chemotherapy carries with it the risk of numerous side effects, including nausea, vomiting and exhaustion, meaning patients undergoing such treatment should get enough rest, eat foods that are easily digestible, drink plenty of water and try to keep a positive frame of mind, avoiding stressful or anxiety inducing situations. Crucially, any treatment should be closely monitored, meaning patients must keep all their doctor’s appointments.