You may not be able to feel the tumor because the mass of stomach cancer develops slowly. However, an abdominal mass related to a stomach tumor is most often felt during a routine physical exam by the doctor. A hard lump in the abdomen during a routine physical examination accompanied by pain, unexplained weight loss, or an enlarged belly are usually considered symptoms of a stomach tumor. In the early stages of stomach cancer, the following symptoms may occur:
- Indigestion and stomach discomfort
- A bloated feeling after eating
- Mild nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody vomit
In more advanced stages of gastric cancer, the following signs and symptoms may occur:
What is a stomach tumor?
Stomach tumors or gastric cancer may occur when the cells in the stomach lining undergo an abnormal change and start multiplying uncontrollably. Cancer begins when an error (mutation) occurs in a cell's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The cancer cells originate in the innermost layer of the stomach (mucus-producing cells that line the stomach). These then advance regionally and in late stages, to distant organs usually via the lymphatic system. The types of stomach cancer may include:
- Adenocarcinoma: It is the most common form of stomach cancer that occurs in 95% of cases. In adenocarcinoma, cancer cells originate in glandular cells that secrete mucus inside the inner stomach lining (mucosa).
- Adenosquamous carcinoma: Cancer cells originate in the space between gland cells.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST): Tumor originating in the connective tissue of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Neuroendocrine carcinoma: Tumors that may produce hormones and sometimes disturb hormonal balance.
- Gastric lymphoma: Cancer originating in the lymph nodes.
The risk factors and causes of stomach cancer may include:
- Older age
- Male gender
- Infection with a bacterium called H pylori
- Persistent inflammation called gastritis
- Pernicious anemia
- Certain types of polyps in the stomach
- Diet high in smoked, pickled, or salty foods
- Diet deficient in fruits and vegetables
- Family history of stomach cancer
- Inherited cancer syndromes
Treatment options for stomach cancer may include:
- Surgery: Surgery is a common treatment of all stages of gastric cancer. The type of surgery required may depend on the patient’s condition, stage of the tumor, and prognosis.
- Endoscopic mucosal resection: Endoscopic mucosal resection is a procedure that uses an endoscope to remove early-stage cancer and precancerous growths from the lining of the digestive tract without surgery. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens for viewing. It may also include tools to remove growths from the lining of the digestive tract.
- Chemotherapy: This method uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by halting the cell division. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the body cavity, such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the area of the body with cancer.
- Chemoradiation: Chemoradiation therapy combines chemotherapy and radiation therapy to increase the effects of both. Chemoradiation that is given after surgery to lower the risk of cancer recurrence is called adjuvant therapy. Chemoradiation given before surgery to shrink the tumor (neoadjuvant therapy) is being studied.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy and radiation therapy do.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or biologic therapy.
Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer worldwide and due to its frequently late diagnosis, it is the third most deadly cancer. As per research, individuals with stomach cancer have a 31.2% chance of surviving more than five years after the initial diagnosis. Hence, it is always recommended to have regular checkups to rule out any chances of cancer.