April 26, 2023
Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, develops in the stomach lining. The stomach is a vital organ that helps to digest food by producing acid and enzymes. It occurs when the cells in the stomach lining grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a tumor.
Millions of people around the world are affected by stomach cancer. Unfortunately, many do not recognize the signs and symptoms until the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage. This is why it's essential to be aware of its symptoms, as early detection can help treat and improve the chances of a successful outcome.
Stomach cancer is more likely to be curable if diagnosed before it spreads to other body parts. Other illnesses, such as stomach ulcers or viruses, can also cause the following signs and symptoms:
One of the most common symptoms of stomach cancer is persistent pain or discomfort in the abdominal region. However, it is not always constant in the early stages of the disease. Abdominal pain may even cause a burning or gnawing sensation that can worsen after eating. It is important to note that abdominal pain is also a common symptom of various conditions, including indigestion, ulcers, and other digestive issues.
People with stomach cancer may experience frequent nausea and vomiting, particularly after eating. A feeling of fullness or bloating can also accompany this. Nausea and vomiting can occur for many reasons, but if they are persistent and not improving, then further evaluation by provider will be required.
Stomach cancer can cause loss of appetite, leading to weight loss. The disease makes the metabolism speed up and burns more calories than usual. This weight loss may be significant and occur over a relatively short period.
Individuals may feel full even after eating only a tiny amount. This feeling of fullness can be persistent and may occur regardless of how much or how little is eaten.
It can cause bleeding in the digestive tract, resulting in blood in the stool or vomit. This may appear as bright red blood or as dark stools.
Cancer-related fatigue is a common symptom, and it is caused by a variety of factors, such as, treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or anemia. In the case of stomach cancer, the body uses more energy to fight off cancer-causing fatigue.
In advanced cases, a person may develop jaundice which causes yellowing of the skin and eyes because a substance called bilirubin builds up in the blood. This happens when the disease spreads to the liver, where bilirubin is processed.
These are not definitive signs of stomach cancer on their own, and it's essential to look at the patient's overall symptoms and medical history to make a diagnosis.
Stomach cancer is usually detected when a person visits the physician because of signs or symptoms. Several different tests can help detect cancer, including:
It cannot diagnose stomach cancer but can detect specific markers that may indicate the presence of any abnormalities. For example, a blood test called a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test measures the levels of CEA, a protein that may be produced by some cancer cells, in the blood. Elevated levels of CEA indicate the presence of cancer. Another blood test, CA 19-9, measures a tumor marker that some stomach cancers may produce.
However, it's important to note that elevated levels of these markers do not necessarily mean that someone has cancer, and further testing is typically needed to confirm a diagnosis. Blood tests are often combined with other diagnostic tests to help identify the disease and determine the best treatment options.
An endoscopy is a procedure that involves passing a flexible tube with a camera down the throat and into the stomach to examine it. It helps the physician to look for any abnormal growth or areas that may be cancerous. If an abnormality is found, the physician takes a biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of tissue for examination.
A standard diagnostic test used to diagnose stomach cancer. During a biopsy, a small tissue sample is removed from the stomach and examined under a microscope for cancer cells.
Several types of biopsy procedures may be used to diagnose stomach cancer, including:
Endoscopic biopsy: This is the most common type of biopsy for stomach cancer. A thin, flexible tube with a camera on end is passed down the throat into the stomach to view the tumor. A small tool is then used to take a tissue sample.
Laparoscopic biopsy: This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. A small incision is made in the abdomen, and a thin, lighted tube with a camera is inserted to view the tumor. A biopsy is taken using specialized instruments.
Fine needle aspiration biopsy: This minimally invasive biopsy procedure uses a thin needle to extract a small tissue sample from the tumor.
If a diagnosis is confirmed, additional tests may be done to determine the cancer stage and help guide treatment decisions.
CT and MRI scans can be used to better look at the stomach and surrounding areas. These tests can help determine the size and location of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Our cancer center in Florida uses state-of-the-art imaging technology and a physician's team to provide patients with the most accurate diagnosis and treatments.
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The most appropriate treatment for stomach cancer depends on several factors, including the cancer stage, the tumor size and location, and the patient's overall health. Some standard advanced treatment options for stomach cancer include:
It is often the first-line treatment for stomach cancer, especially if it is still in its early stages. Surgery aims to remove as much of the cancer as possible. In some cases, nearby lymph nodes may also be removed to help prevent cancer from spreading.
It is a drug treatment to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is used before or after surgery or as the primary treatment for advanced cases. It helps to shrink the tumor before surgery and prevent the disease from spreading.
It uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to kill cancer cells. The radiation is delivered from a machine outside the body and can be targeted directly at the tumor or surrounding tissue. Before surgery, it may shrink or kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used as the primary treatment for advanced cases.
It is a type of cancer treatment that targets specific genes or proteins involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. For stomach cancer, targeted therapy is often used with chemotherapy. It is typically used for advanced-stage stomach cancer.
In some cases, the goal of treatment may be to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life rather than to cure cancer. This is known as palliative care, which may include pain management, nutrition support, and other forms of supportive care. Palliative care can be provided at any stage of an illness and can be provided alongside curative or life-prolonging treatments.
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Several steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer. These include:
Maintain a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low in processed foods and red meat may help reduce the risk. Avoiding pickled and smoked foods, which can contain high levels of salt and nitrates, may also be beneficial.
Quit smoking: A significant risk factor for many types of cancer is smoking. Quit smoking.
Limit alcohol consumption: Try to limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Practice food safety: Ensuring that food is prepared correctly and stored can help prevent the growth of bacteria that can increase the risk of stomach cancer. This includes washing hands before handling food, cooking meat thoroughly, and storing food appropriately.
Get vaccinated: Infection with the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria has been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. Getting vaccinated against this bacteria can help reduce this risk.
Regular check-ups: Visit nearby Cancer Centers in Florida if the signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are persistent. Or if there is a family history of stomach cancer, it is imperative to discuss screening options with a doctor.
Remember, while there are no guaranteed ways to prevent stomach cancer, these steps can help reduce the risk and improve overall health.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 26,500 new cases of stomach cancer (15,930 in men and 10,570 in women) in the United States in 2023. This disease can have devastating consequences if left untreated. Awareness of its symptoms and seeking medical attention from ACTC, a state-of-the-art cancer center in Florida, may help catch cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. Taking steps to prevent stomach cancer and being vigilant about the signs and symptoms can help ensure the best possible outcome for those affected.