Cancerous growth that occurs on the stomach causing intense pain and bloody discharge in stools is called stomach cancer. Depending on the intensity of cancer growth and its stage treatment is given. Stomach is the vital part that is meant for storing and digesting food particles and is a big bundle of muscular sac found on the upper side of your abdomen. Stomach cancer is also known as gastric cancer since it begins its attack in the soft mucus lining of the stomach called adenocarcinoma.
This disease is marked by the presence of malignant tumor in the stomach. The rate of stomach cancer is fast declining in many parts of the world due to awareness and improved technology. Majority of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma affecting the tissues of the lining of stomach. There are other types of stomach cancer that affects the lymph system (lymphomas) and connective tissues (sarcomas).
The major signs of stomach cancer are given below:-
• Bloated feeling after every meals
• Feeling discomfort in the stomach along with pain
• Nausea and vomiting sensation
• Loss of appetite
• Fatigue and extreme tiredness
• Weight loss (unexplained)
These are some of the symptoms of early stomach cancer and the signs are almost the same for peptic ulcer too. If the cancer has grown large and has affecting the muscle layer and other layers of the stomach you may have one or more of the symptoms given below:-
• Blood in vomit and persistent vomiting
• Bloody discharge in your stool or black tarry stools
• Discomfort and pain in the middle part of the stomach
• Bloated feeling or fullness
• Sudden weight loss
• Severe heartburn
You need to seek immediate medical advice if you have any of the above symptoms since stomach cancer can be treated completely if diagnosed in early stages.
Exact cause of this disease is still not clear but experts believe that there is good relation between what you eat and how you live. Stomach cancer is said to be caused by mutated genes that are defective. Tumor causing cells will grow rapidly invading the neighborhood areas spreading quickly. In rare cases, cancerous cells will be let loose from the tumor which travels into the bloodstream affecting other vital parts.
Risk Factors :
Being men makes you more prone to develop stomach cancer than women for unknown reason. If there is a family history of stomach cancer or other types of cancer then there is increased risk of getting cancer. Presence of genetic abnormalities can cause cancer in the stomach.
People with A group blood and those living in Japan, Korea and Central America have more chance of developing stomach cancer than others. Those who are very old (above 70 years) and have been infected with H Pylori bacteria have doubled the chance of getting stomach cancer.
People with frequent problems in intestine like chronic gastritis and polyps are prone to develop stomach cancer. People who are exposed to poisonous metals like lead, nickel and asbestos have chance for getting stomach cancer. Eating low fiber diet and continued smoking and drinking can pose risk for concerned person.
Stomach Cancer Types :
Based on the part that is being affected stomach cancer are classified into 4 categories:
1. Adenocarcinoma : The cancer starts in the glandular cells that is the innermost lining of the stomach and is responsible for protecting the lining from strong acids and other digestive enzymes. Majority of stomach cancers belong to this type.
2. Lymphoma : Stomach walls include good numbers of immune system cells and when they are attacked it causes lymphoma.
3. Carcinoid Cancer : There are certain cells that produces hormone and when cancerous cells grow in these cells it causes carciniod cancer.
4. GI stromal Tumor : Gastrointestinal stromal tumor is one in which cancer cells begins to develop on the nervous system tissues found in the stomach.
Item number 2-4 are rare in occurrence.
Endoscopy test is the best procedure available for detecting stomach cancer. A long slender tube fitted with a camera is sent through the throat into the stomach. Your doctor will monitor the screen through the camera which will clearly show the presence of tumor causing cells. He would also do a biopsy (removing small sample tissue from the lining) for ascertaining the diagnoses.
CT scan, MRI scan and X-ray are also done for testing stomach cancer. To find out the exact stage of stomach cancer procedures like Positron Emission Tomography and laparoscopic surgery is done.
Cancer Stages :
First Stage : The cancer cells will affect only the innermost lining or tissue of the stomach at this stage. Some cells would have spread to the lymph nodes nearby.
Second Stage : Now the cancer cells would have spread deep into the muscle layers penetrating through the tissues. It would certainly have invaded the lymphatic system cells also.
Third Stage : At this stage the cancer cells would have passed through the entire layers of the stomach till the outer walls.
Fourth Stage : Now the cancer causing cells would have been left loose facilitating easy spreading to other parts of the body.
Treatment options usually involve combining chemotherapy and surgery or surgery with radiation therapy in most of the cases. Gastrectomy is the name of the surgery done for removing affected parts of the stomach including tissue and muscle layers. This procedure is done for treating stomach cancer of early stages that has invaded the inner lining and tissues. The entire process will be done through endoscopy and the surgeon will cut and remove the affected part along with few healthy tissues.
Subtotal gastrectomy is one in which part of the stomach portion that is affected with cancer is removed. In total gastrectomy the entire stomach portion will be removed and the esophagus will be directly connected with the small intestine. In advanced stages, (when the cancer cannot be cured) the surgeon will remove only part of the stomach for providing relief from sharp pain.
Radiation Therapy :
In this process high beams of radiation light are sent into the stomach to destroy cancer causing cells. It is normally used before surgery for shrinking the tumor cells or after the surgical process for killing any leftover cancerous cells. This procedure along with chemotherapy is used for relieving the side effects of large sized tumor.
Strong chemicals are used in this method to destroy cancer cells. Drugs are injected intravenously which would travel in your body to attack and kill cancerous cells. This process is used for treating advanced stomach cancer in which the cancer cells have invaded other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is either done before or after the surgery. Targeted medications like Herceptin, Gleevac and Sutent are used for treating some types of stomach cancer.
It would be really shocking and overwhelming for anyone to know that he/she is diagnosed for stomach cancer. First you have to accept it. Collect more details from your doctor and identify which stage of cancer you are in. Discuss about the treatment options and risks involved in each process. Support groups are available and hence try to get in touch with people who are in similar trauma. Find people who are surviving with cancer and stay connected with them online.
You cannot prevent getting stomach cancer. Steps can be taken for reducing the risk of developing stomach cancer. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet and reduce the salt intake. Quit smoking and reduce alcohol by getting help from your doctor. Follow the instructions of your doctor for doing periodic endoscope procedures to know about any new developments in your stomach.