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Stomach cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer among both men and women, worldwide. Stomach cancer is cancer that develops in the inner lining of the stomach. These cells grow and develop into a tumor. Stomach cancer is also called as gastric cancer. The cancer in the stomach grows slowly, for many years. If the symptoms of this disease are identified, appropriate treatment can be given to the patient.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there are more than 20,000 new cases of cancer detected each year. The development of stomach cancer is rare when compared to other types of cancer and it is also difficult to diagnose the disease. As stomach cancer do not show any early signs of cancer, the disease goes unnoticed and is detected only at a later stage when the condition becomes very serious.

Types of Stomach Cancer

The different types of stomach cancer are:

  • Adenocarcinomais the most common cancer among all the other types of stomach cancer. It is developed within the cells present in the innermost lining of the stomach.
  • Lymphomais a cancer that develops in the lymph tissues of the stomach. It accounts for only 4% of the total stomach cancers.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor is a rare type of stomach cancer that develops in the inner lining of the cells called the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs). Under a microscope, these cells resemble the muscle and nerve cells. Gastrointestinal stromal tumor develops throughout the digestive tract but the majority of the cancer develops in the stomach.
  • Carcinoid tumor is a cancer that’s develops in the cells that produce hormone in the stomach. This type of cancer does not spread to other parts of the body and account for about 3% of the stomach cancer incidence.

Signs and Symptoms

Every individual is different from the other and therefore the signs and symptoms may also vary from person to person. Not all, experience the same signs and symptoms. However, these are a few common symptoms observed in a person suffering from stomach cancer.

  • Indigestion
  • Bloated feeling
  • Nausea
  • Heartburns
  • Loss of appetite

Causes and Risk factors

Stomach cancer develops when the normal, healthy cells become cancerous and grow out of control, forming a tumor. This process takes place slowly and the signs and symptoms are usually observed at a later or an advanced stage of the cancer.
The factors that increase the risk of developing cancer are:

  • Smoking is one of the major causes of developing stomach cancer. Smokers have twice the risk of developing cancer in the stomach when compared to non-smokers.
  • A family history of cancer may also increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. An inherited gene in the body may increase the probability of developing the disease in a person’s lifetime.
  • Consuming foods that have aflatoxin fungus on it have a risk of developing stomach cancer. Aflatoxin fungus grows on foods like crude vegetable oils, cocoa beans, ground nuts, figs, spices etc
  • Following a diet rich in salt, more amount of spices, pickled vegetables, and smoked meat have an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Age is one of the most significant causes of developing the disease. As a person ages, the body and the immune cells becomes weak and so the body may be affected with various diseases, even stomach cancer. Stomach cancer mostly affects a person after the age of 55 years.
  • Men have twice the risk of developing the disease when compared to women.

Diagnosis

The following are the various diagnostic tests performed in a person suffering from stomach cancer.

  • Gastroscopic examination is performed by the doctor to examine the inner part of the patient’s stomach with the help of a fiber optic camera. This examination is done to check for any changes or abnormalities in the stomach.
  • Ultrasound scan which is also referred to as sonogram, is a diagnostic device which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of the body. This is performed if the doctor suspects any changes in any part of the stomach. CT scan or PET scan is also taken to check for the spread of disease in the stomach. It takes radiographic pictures of the inside of the stomach.
  • Barium meal X-ray is done to identify the changes or abnormalities in the stomach. In this test, the patient is asked to swallow barium which is a liquid. As it travels through the stomach, the condition of the stomach is known in the form of an X-ray.
  • Laparoscopyis also a diagnostic test performed to check for the spread of cancer in the stomach. A long thin tube with a camera in front is inserted through a small incision made in the lower part of the stomach.

Treatment

Once the diagnosis confirms the presence of a tumor in the stomach, one or more of the following treatments are performed.

  • Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses drugs to stop the spread of cancer to other parts of the body and also kills the cancer-causing cells. This medications travels through the body and kills the cancerous cells in the body. These drugs are called as cytotoxic medicines.
  • Radiotherapy uses radiation beams to kill the cancer-causing cells. It is usually given after the surgery or along with chemotherapy to remove any leftover cancer cells in the body.
  • Surgery is performed to remove a part of the tissue or the entire organ. The aim of the surgery is to remove cancer from the body. Abdominal surgeries usually have a long recovery time and the patient will be made to stay in the hospital for about 2 weeks.
  • Immunotherapy is also performed to treat the person suffering from cancer. Vaccines and medications are given to the patient to help the patient get rid of cancer.
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