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Stomach cancer

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Overview of stomach cancer

Stomach cancer, or gastric cancer, is a type of cancer that affects and starts from any part of the stomach. Stomach cancer is a disease that causes one of the highest amounts deaths in the world every year.  

Of all the cancers that can affect the stomach almost 95 percent is diagnosed as cases of adenocarcinomas where the cancer originates from the stomach lining. Other cancers, although rare, include the lymphoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) and neuroendocrine tumours (NET) with different lines of treatment.

Signs and symptoms of stomach cancer

There are no definite symptoms for stomach cancer and most signs can be associated with other diseases.

Some symptoms will include: 

  •  Chronic stomach pains
  •  Feeling stuffed
  •  Fatigue
  •  Blood clots
  •  Vomiting blood
  •  Feeling or being sick
  •  Difficulty in swallowing
  •  Loss of appetite

The most common symptoms of stomach cancer are acidity and burping but this can be related to an umber of other diseases and hence not conclusive. 


Causes of stomach cancer
The exact reason of what causes stomach cells to grow and multiply abnormally is still a mystery but research has thrown considerable light on what can cause a stomach cancer. Most stomach cancer is caused by Helicobacter pylori infection. It is also considered that eating certain type of food like smoked foods, salted fish and meat, and pickled vegetables can also cause stomach cancer. Smoking increases the risk of developing gastric cancer significantly and should be avoided. Gastric cancers due to smoking mostly occur in the upper part of the stomach near the esophagus, says the American Cancer Society. The British Journal of Cancer says that some studies have shown an increased risk of cancer with alcohol consumption.


Risk factors for stomach cancer

Men have a higher rate of getting stomach cancer compared to women and cases of cancer become higher in people aged 55 years and over. People who smoke have twice the risk of stomach cancer compared to non smokers. Taking anti inflammatory drugs, a history of cancer in the family, having some other form of cancer, exposure to radiation and hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of stomach cancer.  


Diagnosis of stomach cancer

The foremost method of diagnosis is through a physical examination where a doctor tries to find out if any of the typical symptoms of stomach cancer are present. Some procedures like an upper endoscopy are the mainstay in diagnosing stomach cancer. It may be used when someone has certain risk factors or when signs and symptoms suggest this disease may be present. 

The test lets the doctor see the lining of your esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine. If abnormal areas are seen, biopsies (tissue samples) can be taken using instruments passed through the endoscope.

Other methods of diagnosis include imaging tests use x-rays, magnetic fields, sound waves, and use of or radioactive substances to highlight the cancer cells. Running imaging tests like Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and Positron emission tomography scan (PET scan) are few such examples.

Imaging tests may be done for a number of reasons, including:

1. To help find out whether a suspicious area might be cancerous

2. To learn how far cancer may have spread

3. To help determine if treatment has been effective

However, in what can be revolutionary, studies have revealed that a quick and simple breath test can diagnose stomach cancer. Scientists from Israel and China found the test was 90 percent accurate at detecting and distinguishing cancers from other stomach complaints in 130 patients. 

The British Journal of Cancer says the test could transform and speed up the way this cancer is diagnosed. Cancer appears to give off a signature smell of volatile organic compounds that can be detected using the right technical medical kit - and perhaps even dogs. The science behind the test itself is not new - many researchers have been working on the possibility of breath tests for a number of cancers, including lung.

Treatment of stomach cancer

The main treatments for stomach cancer are: 

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy

Often 2 or more approaches are used to treat stomach cancer effectively. 

In some cases to treat stomach cancer a doctor may have to remove some or all parts of the stomach. In almost all cases procedures like chemotherapy and radiotherapy is used along with surgery to treat cases of stomach cancer. In some cases a surgery may be needed to merely lessen the severity of symptoms of stomach cancer. Radiotherapy may also be used after a surgery to prevent the disease from recurring.


Prevention of stomach cancer

There are no hard and fast prevention techniques but after suffering from stomach cancer a person has to be cautious. The general idea should be to stay healthy and fit. Cutting down on alcohol and giving up on tobacco is a must. Stress levels have to be kept in control. Eating small meals and more of fruits and vegetables helps. One must also strive to stay healthy by exercising. It improves your cardiovascular (heart and circulation) functions, makes muscles stronger and reduces fatigue.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date posted: August 13, 2013

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