Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a cancer that develops from the lining of the stomach. Stomach cancer tends to develop slowly over many years. Early stages rarely cause symptoms, so they are often undetected. Symptoms of stomach cancer in women are the same as those in men.
Symptoms of stomach cancer
Early signs and symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach discomfort
- Bloated feeling after meals
- Pain in the breastbone
- Trapped wind
Later stage signs and symptoms include:
Types of stomach cancer
Different types of stomach cancer include:
- Adenocarcinomas: 90 to 95 percent of stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas. They form in the mucosa (innermost layer of the stomach wall).
Rare cancers include:
Stages of stomach cancer
Stomach cancer is staged based on the extent of spread of cancer within the stomach and other parts of the body:
- Stage 0: Abnormal cancer cells are found in the mucosa of the stomach wall.
- Stage I: Tumor is found in situ (at the site of origin of the cancer), and the cancer cells may have spread to one or two lymph nodes.
- Stage II: Cancer spreads to deeper layers of the stomach and nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III: Cancer spreads to all layers of the stomach, more lymph nodes, and nearby organs such as the spleen, pancreas, adrenal gland, abdomen wall, small intestine, colon, abdomen wall, diaphragm, or kidney.
- Stage IV: Cancer metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body such as the lungs, bones, liver, lining of the abdomen, and distant lymph nodes. Cure is rarely possible at this stage.
What causes stomach cancer?
The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown. Stomach cancer begins when genetic mutations or changes in the DNA occur in the stomach cells. These changes in the DNA cause the normal healthy cells to become cancerous and grow out of control forming a tumor that invades and destroys the healthy tissue.
Risk factors for stomach cancer:
Factors that can increase the risk of stomach cancer include:
- Infection by bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) that cause ulcers (accounts for more than 60 percent of stomach cancer cases)
- Chronic gastritis (stomach inflammation)
- Stomach surgery for an ulcer
- Pernicious anemia
- Intestinal metaplasia (the stomach lining is replaced with the intestine lining)
- Stomach polyps
- Tumors in other parts of the digestive system
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Family history of stomach cancer
- Genetic syndromes (familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome)
- Type-A blood group
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Diet high in salted, processed, pickled, or smoked foods
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Eating food not prepared or stored properly
- Lack of exercise
- Adults older than 50 years
- Male gender
- Working in coal, metal, timber, or rubber industries
- Exposure to asbestos
How is stomach cancer treated?
Treatments options include:
- Surgery: The tumor and healthy tissues around it are removed surgically to ensure that no cancerous cells remain. Types of surgeries include:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses certain medicines to stop the cancer cells from dividing and multiplying. Chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or kill the remaining cancer cells after surgery.
- Radiation therapy: Radioactive rays are used to target and kill the cancerous cells. They may be used along with chemotherapy.
- Targeted medications: Targeted medications are administered through intravenous (IV) infusion to attack specific proteins produced by the cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment encourages the body’s immune cells to recognize and destroy the cancer cells.
What is the survival rate for stomach cancer?
Recovery from stomach cancer is better if diagnosed in the early stages.
- The five-year survival rate is about 68 percent for a person who receives treatment before the cancer spreads (this means a person’s chance for living up to five years after the diagnosis is 68 percent compared with a healthy individual).
- The survival rate reduces to 31 percent if the cancer metastasizes into deeper tissues of the stomach.
- The survival rate drops to 5 percent if the cancer has spread to distant organs.
How can stomach cancer be prevented?
Stomach cancer cannot be prevented completely. A person can reduce the risk of stomach cancer by
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