Also referred to as ‘gastric cancer’, stomach cancer is a severe life-threatening health condition. It mainly appears when abnormal cells and tissues begin to develop and spread in patient’s stomach. These cells have a tendency to affect nearby as well as other parts of patient’s body. Untreated and advanced gastric cancer may lead to death of patients. Therefore, patients must keep a check on their health and seek prompt medical treatment in order to attain a better quality of life.
Types of Stomach Cancer
The following points elaborate some of the most common types of gastric cancer .
- Adenocarcinoma – This is the most commonly observed type of stomach or gastric cancer. This type of disease develops when abnormal cells start to grow in inner lining of patient’s stomach.
- Lymphoma – Lymphatic tissues in stomach are responsible for fighting infections and keeping stomach healthy. This type of cancer develops when unusual and harmful lymphatic tissues start to develop and multiply in patient’s stomach.
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) – There is a special category of cells which are found in stomach known as interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). Cancerous gastrointestinal stromal tumor occurs due to abnormal changes in healthy interstitial cells of Cajal.
- Carcinoid Tumor – This type of stomach cancer occurs rarely. It emerges due to abnormal formation of hormone-producing cells in stomach.
Causes and Risk Factors for Stomach Cancer
Medical professionals are not sure of the root cause that gives rise to gastric cancer or cancer of stomach. However, the following risk factors may lead to stomach cancer over a period.
- Improper Diet – People who do not eat fresh fruits and vegetables in adequate amount and eat processed, salty and smoked food more often are at higher risk of developing stomach cancer.
- Age and Gender – Men, especially the ones who are above 55 years of age category are at higher risk of getting cancer of stomach.
- Family History – People who have a family history of gastric cancer are relatively at greater risk of developing this disease as compared to others.
- Infection from Helicobacter Pylori – Patients suffering from a severe stomach infection that is caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria should stay careful as they are more prone to developing stomach cancer.
- Medical Issues – Patients suffering from pernicious anemia, chronic stomach inflammation, and stomach polyps condition have a greater likelihood of getting gastric cancer.
- Smoking – Habit of smoking may give rise to several life-threatening diseases including gastric cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Cancer
The given list depict some most common signs and symptoms of stomach cancer. Patients experiencing these symptoms must visit a well-qualified cancer specialist for an accurate diagnosis.
- Fatigue – Fatigue or extreme tiredness with no particular reason is the most common symptom associated with gastric cancer.
- Bloating – People who feel full or bloated even after having small meals should undergo a medical check-up as this could be a warning sign of underlying stomach cancer.
- Persistent Heartburn and Indigestion – Severe heartburn and indigestion problem from a long time could be an indication of gastric cancer.
- Persistent Nausea and Vomiting Sensation – People suffering from persistent nausea or who get vomiting sensation after eating anything should consult a doctor. Stomach cancer could give rise to such health condition.
- Stomach Pain – Intense pain in stomach without any significant reason is an indication of gastric cancer.
- Unintended Weight Loss – It is the most prominent sign of stomach cancer. Therefore, people who have undergone a sudden and unintended weight loss should not delay in visiting a well-experienced doctor.
- Abnormal Stools – Black or abnormally dark colored could be an indication of serious stomach illness including cancer.
Diagnosing Stomach Cancer
Patients experiencing above-mentioned warning signs of stomach cancer must reach out to a qualified as well as an experienced doctor without any kind of hesitation. It will significantly raise their chances of positive outcomes. During initial appointment, respective cancer specialist may ask patients to reveal their medical history as well as abnormal symptoms. Patients must stay true and give them required details. It will help the doctors in diagnosing their health status in an easy manner. Doctors may order any of the following diagnostic tests for confirming the presence of stomach cancer.
- Blood Tests – Doctors may order several blood tests in order to check the presence of cancerous cells. A team of medical experts take out a sample of blood from patient’s body and inspect it properly in a laboratory.
- Upper Endoscopy and Biopsy Test – This is an effective diagnostic test that can determine the development and extent of cancer-causing cells in patient’s stomach. Doctors will use a thin device known as an ‘endoscope’ and insert it in upper area of patient’s stomach via their throat. Endoscope is an extremely useful medical tool as it has a camera which can give out high-resolution images of patient’s internal stomach and nearby structures. Doctors may take out a sample of tissue (biopsy) from this region if they suspect the condition of stomach cancer.
- Imaging Tests – Doctors may suggest patients to undergo imaging tests such as computed tomography test (CT scan), x-ray test, or a magnetic resonance scan (MRI scan) test in order to figure out the underlying condition. These tests are capable of generating high-quality images of patient’s stomach area. Patients are exposed to respective scanning devices for some time and pictures are taken for evaluation.
- Exploratory Surgery – In some cases, doctors may perform a small operation for determining the extent of stomach cancer. Exploratory surgery is performed with the help of a device called as ‘laparoscope’. Respective doctors carefully make small cuts in patient’s abdominal area and slowly insert laparoscope through it. Laparoscope has a camera that captures internal pictures of stomach for providing a better view.
Stages of Stomach Cancer
The following are the four main stages of gastric cancer or stomach cancer. These stages mainly indicate the spread of extent of cancer in patient’s body.
- Stage 1 – First stage marks the development of abnormal cells inside patient’s stomach. During stage 1, cancerous cells begin to grow on top-most layer that lines patient’s stomach. Patient’s survival possibility during this stage is highest.
- Stage 2 – Second stage occurs when cancerous cells begin to accumulate in deeper layers of stomach lining. They may also affect lymph nodes present in surrounding area.
- Stage 3 – Third stage is a relatively advanced stage which appears when cancerous cells adversely affect every layer that lines patient’s stomach as well as the lymph nodes.
- Stage 4 – This is end stage of stomach cancer. It indicates that cancerous cells have spread beyond the stomach to different body organs. Probability of patient’s survival is the least during this stage.
Treatment Options for Stomach Cancer
The below-mentioned list describes various treatment options for stomach or gastric cancer. Stomach cancer treatment cost may vary depending on extent of cancer.
- Surgery for Stomach Cancer – Stomach cancer surgery is mostly recommended during the initial stage of cancer. Surgeons generally conduct the operation under influence of general anesthetics. Surgery may be performed either to remove the unwanted cancerous area in stomach, lymph nodes, or doctors may remove entire stomach to stop the growth of cancer-causing cells. Patients may be instructed to stop the use of certain medicines prior to the surgery. Doctors may remove the cancerous area by either using an endoscopic approach or laparoscopically.
- Chemotherapy for Stomach Cancer – Chemotherapy for stomach cancer is performed with the help of specialized anti-cancer medications and drugs. These medications are powerful enough to destroy the cancerous cells present in patient’s stomach completely. These drugs used in chemotherapy procedure are known as ‘chemo’ drugs. Doctors may either inject them directly into patient’s stomach or ask them to consume orally. Chemotherapy can be used before surgical procedure or given in combination with radiation therapy for treating second and third stage of gastric cancer.
- Radiation Therapy for Stomach Cancer – Radiation therapy for stomach cancer involves use of high-intensity radiation such as protons and x-rays. These radiations are highly effective and can kill cancerous cells present in stomach of patients. During stomach cancer radiation therapy, doctors expose the patients to a sophisticated room and ask them to stay there comfortably. Radiations are emitted through a device directly on patient’s body. This therapy can be repeated several times in order to provide relief to patients.
- Targeted Therapy for Stomach Cancer – Stomach cancer targeted therapy is an advanced method of killing cancerous cells in patient’s stomach. Respective surgeons give certain drugs to patients that make changes in immune system and directs it to destroy harmful cells in patient’s stomach. Drugs can be injected through their veins or in an oral manner just like that of chemotherapy. Doctors usually recommend this procedure to patients in third and final stage of gastric cancer and mostly in combination with chemotherapy.
Risks and Complications Associated with Stomach Cancer Treatment
The following points give out some of the major risks and complications associated with different treatments for gastric cancer.
- Stomach Cancer Surgery – Patients may experience severe bleeding, clotting of blood, respiratory troubles, and painful swelling around abdomen following stomach cancer surgery.
- Chemotherapy for Stomach Cancer – Extreme tiredness, upset stomach, loss of appetite are the main complications associated with stomach cancer chemotherapy.
- Radiation Therapy for Stomach Cancer – Nausea, vomiting sensation, hair loss, intestinal issues, and bowel changes are the major complications associated with stomach cancer radiation therapy.
- Targeted Therapy for Stomach Cancer – Fever, chills, cough, severe headache, cough, and vomiting are major risks associated with targeted therapy for stomach cancer.
Recovery Following Stomach Cancer Treatment
Recovery following gastric cancer treatment will depend on the severity of cancer, procedure involved, and overall general health status of patients. Respective oncologists may ask patients to make some considerable changes in their regular meals. They may prepare a diet plan indicating that patients need to eat fresh fruits and vegetables in more proportions to stay healthy. Otherwise, there may arise chances of recurrence of stomach cancer. Patients should follow the diet plan as well as visit doctors at regular time intervals for follow-up care sessions. Apart from this, a strong willpower and positive mindset will significantly help in a speedy recovery.
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