What is stomach cancer?
Written by doctor Emilia McCarthy © NetDoctor
Stomach cancer affects around 8000 people per year in the United States, although the incidence is declining. It affects more men than women. It is rare under the age of 40 and becomes more common with increasing age. The decline in the rate of stomach cancer is thought to be associated with improvements in diet.
Symptoms of a stomach cancer
The symptoms of stomach cancer are difficult to distinguish from those of stomach or duodenal ulcers. The principal feature is pain, high in the abdomen in the angle between the ribs, that is often relieved by food.
Cancer of the stomach can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages. It can be quite advanced by the time it is identified.
The most common symptoms include difficulty in swallowing, weight loss, nausea and vomiting. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, there may be other symptoms associated with this.
Causes of a stomach cancer
The causes of stomach cancer are still not fully understood. Factors that irritate the stomach have been implicated. A stomach infection through Helicobacter pylori bacteria may be linked with both stomach ulcers and stomach cancer. Diet is probably important. Alcohol and cigarette-smoking are known factors.
Stomach cancer is more common in people who have pernicious anemia, which affects the lining of the stomach and results in a lack of Vitamin B12.
People with blood group A are more likely to develop stomach cancer than are those with other blood groups. This implies that there may be a genetic element in the set of causes.
How to diagnose stomach cancer?
Diagnosis is often made when the disease is at a late stage. A barium-meal X-ray will show up stomach cancer in 90% of cases.
Direct viewing through an optical instrument (gastroscopy) will provide a view of the cancer and allow biopsies to be taken. Computerized tomography (CT scan) and ultrasound scanning can also be helpful.
Treatment of a stomach cancer
Treatment is surgical removal of the tumor if it is not too far advanced. Chemotherapy drugs may also be given.
Can we prevent stomach cancer?
Drink alcohol in moderation, and dilute any strong alcoholic drinks. Reduce your intake of other foods that irritate the stomach, such as caffeine. If you smoke, give up or cut down as much as you can.
A blood test, which can be arranged through your GP, can help detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori. Helicobactor pylori can be successfully treated with antibiotics.