Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the stomach lining and spreads throughout the body. It grows slowly over a long period and causes very few or no symptoms. The stomach is a tight pouch in the top region of your abdomen that lies just below your ribs. Also, your stomach takes in and holds the food you eat before breaking it down and digesting it.
One element doctors consider while determining your treatment options is the location of cancer in the stomach. Surgery is one of the preferred treatment options to remove stomach cancer. Here’s all you need to know about stomach cancer.
What is stomach cancer?
Stomach cancer, also described as gastric cancer, occurs when healthy cells within the stomach become cancerous and grow out of control and form a tumor. As this process happens very slowly, stomach cancer tends to develop over many years.
The following are some signs and symptoms of stomach cancer:
- Swallowing problems
- After eating a tiny amount of food, you feel satisfied.
- Stomach ache
- Unexplained weight loss
If you detect any signs or symptoms that concern you, book an appointment with a doctor. Also, your doctor would most likely start by looking at the more prevalent causes of these signs and symptoms.
What are the causes of stomach cancer?
The following are some of the factors that enhance the risk of stomach cancer:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- A diet low in fruits
- Vegetables high in salty or smoked food
- Stomach cancer in the family
- Helicobacter pylori infection
- Inflammation in the stomach (gastritis)
- Stomach polyps caused by smoking
Gastric cancer types
About 95% of stomach cancers start in the glandular tissue present in the stomach lining. However, the stomach tumour can also spread and grow directly through the wall, shed cells into the blood or lymphatic system.
Classification of stomach cancers is based on the type of tissue of origin:
- Adenocarcinomas — begin in the glandular lining of the stomach.
- Lymphomas — begin in the lymphocytes, cells involved in the immune system.
- Sarcomas — begin in the connective tissue (fat, muscle, or blood vessels).
- Other forms of stomach cancer include small cell carcinoma, carcinoid, and squamous cell carcinoma.
- Breast cancer, melanoma, and other metastatic primary cancers that have the potential to spread are also seen in the stomach.
If you are aware of the symptoms of stomach cancer, you and your doctor may spot it early, when it’s easiest to treat.
How fast does stomach cancer spread?
Like the majority of cancers, stomach cancer also has the potential to spread to nearby areas in the body through the lymph nodes and blood. The stomach cells which are most susceptible to genetic mutation, are commonly involved in stomach cancer.
Hence, even when they become cancerous or malignant, it takes a while to spread. In addition, compared to other variants of cancers, like skin cancer, stomach cancer is slow-spreading cancer.
Here are some screening tests that are not only used to detect cancer but to also check the extent of its spread:
- Stool samples
- Blood tests
- Upper endoscopy
- Imaging scans (CT, MRI, PET)
- Upper GI x-rays with barium swallow
Many factors influence your treatment options. Cancer’s location and stage are critical. Your doctor will consider your age, overall health, and personal preferences when deciding on a treatment strategy.
The following are the most common therapies for stomach cancer:
- Surgical treatment for stomach cancer
- Treatment Using Targeted Drugs
- Stomach Cancer Immunotherapy
- Radiation Therapy for Stomach Cancer
Stomach cancer is treated by a multidisciplinary team of gastroenterologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, counsellors, and other healthcare professionals.
Stomach cancer has the potential to spread, and hence its early detection can help prevent it. You should consult a doctor as soon as you notice any disease symptoms. If you have a strong family history of cancer, get yourself screened to rule out cancer development.