What is stomach cancer?
Cancer of stomach or gastric cancer is a cancer that develops from the lining of the stomach. Basically, it occurs when cells in the lining of the stomach start multiplying uncontrollably and form tumors. These tumors in return invade the normal tissues and spread cancerous cells to the other body organs.
Cancers are usually described by the types of cells from which they arise. Of all the cancer types, around 90% cases of gastric cancers arise from the lining of the stomach, called adenocarcinoma.
Other cancers that arise in the stomach include gastrointestinal stromal tumors, lymphoma and carcinoid tumors, among others.
Stomach cancer tends to develop over many years and because it is diagnosed late, it often goes unnoticed.
Stomach cancer usually affects older people and is more common in men than women.
Also, because the cancer type is generally difficult to treat, so it’s advisable to refer to the best hospital for treatment of stomach cancer.
As a cautionary note, don’t get lured by dubious claims or unverified certifications of the clinics and hospitals, as a wrong treatment or diagnosis can cost you a precious life.
If you or your loved one are showing symptoms of stomach cancer, schedule an appointment at American Oncology Institute, the best hospital for stomach cancer in India.
What causes stomach cancer?
The stomach acts a reservoir where food is stored and partially digested after it is eaten and swallowed. It is responsible for digesting food and moving nutrients to the small and large intestines.
Stomach cancer begins when healthy cells within the upper digestive system become cancerous and grow out of control thereby, leading to formation of a tumor.
Though stomach cancer takes many years to develop, pre-cancerous changes often occur in the inner lining (mucosa) of the stomach. These early changes rarely cause any noticeable symptoms and hence it goes undetected.
Among the known causes, environmental factors appear to be related to the intestinal type of gastric cancer. Also, it appears that people with blood group A are at increased risk for gastric cancer for an unknown reason.
Certain changes in DNA can cause normal stomach cells to grow abnormally and form cancers. DNA is the chemical in cells that carries our genes and controls how these cells function.
Inherited mutations in some genes can also increase a person’s stomach cancer risk. These are thought to cause only a small percentage of stomach cancers, though.
Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) is an inherited genetic abnormality that is associated with an increased risk of developing gastric cancer.
Most of the genetic changes that cause stomach cancer occur after birth. These risk factors include:
- Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) with gastric cancer. H. pylori is associated with gastric ulcers and chronic atrophic gastritis, which may explain the higher incidence of gastric cancer in patients infected with H. pylori.
- Pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease where the stomach does not produce stomach acid, has also been linked to gastric cancer.
- Another type of gastric cancer — Gastroesophageal junction cancer is associated with having gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a condition caused by frequent backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus.
When to worry about stomach cancer?
As mentioned earlier, it is hard to diagnose stomach cancer in its early stages because the early changes rarely cause any symptoms and hence it goes undetected.
Indigestion and stomach discomfort can be symptoms of early cancer, but other worrying signals may include:
- Gastrointestinal pain in the stomach
- Unexpected weight loss or loss of appetite
What are the risk factors for stomach cancer?
Risk factors for gastric cancer include:
- H. pylori infection; a common, treatable bacterial infection
- Stomach inflammation
- Over 65 years
- Consume lots of salted, smoked foods
- Smoke cigarettes
- Family history of stomach cancer
Is stomach cancer curable?
Unfortunately, as stomach cancer isn’t often picked up until the later stages, many cases of stomach cancer can’t be completely cured. However, by using various treatment modalities like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, etc., one can surely improve the quality of life.
Like all malignancies, stomach cancer is usually most treatable when it is found early, before the cancer has spread to other organs such as lungs, liver and bones. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, the patient’s outlook is not as good.