Stomach cancer or gastric cancer, refers to cancer developing in any part of the stomach. These cancers are classified according to the type of tissue they originate in. The most common type of stomach cancer is adenocarcinoma, which starts in the glandular tissue of the stomach and accounts for 90-95% of all stomach cancers.
Other forms of stomach cancer include lymphomas, which involve the lymphatic system and sarcomas, which involve the connective tissue (such as muscle, fat or blood vessels). Stomach cancer is often curable, if found and treated in an early stage.
In the early stages of stomach cancer, the symptoms are not very clear. But in the later stages the following symptoms manifest themselves:
Indigestion and stomach discomfort
A bloated feeling after eating
Loss of appetite
These symptoms are similar to those caused by a peptic ulcer. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your health care provider so that a proper diagnosis can be made and timely treatment given. A stomach cancer can grow very large before it causes other symptoms.
In more advanced cancer, you may have:
Discomfort in the upper or middle part of the abdomen.
Blood in the stool (which appears as black, tarry stools).
Vomiting or vomiting blood.
Pain or bloating in the stomach after eating.
Weakness or fatigue associated with mild anaemia (a deficiency in red blood cells).
The exact cause of stomach cancer is unknown, but a number of factors can increase the risk and causes of the disease, including:
Gender: According to studies, men have more than double the risk of getting stomach cancer in comparison to their female counterpart.
Race: The occurrence of stomach cancer is on the higher side among African-American or Asian.
Genetics: Genetic abnormalities and some inherited cancer syndromes may increase an individual’s risk towards developing stomach cancer.
Blood type: Individuals with blood group A may be at increased risk.
Advanced age: Stomach cancer occurs more often around ages 70 and 74 in men and women, respectively.
Family history of gastric cancer can double or triple the risk of stomach cancer.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables or high in salted, smoked or nitrate-preserved foods may increase risk.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection of the stomach: H. pylori is a bacterium that infects the lining of the stomach and causes chronic inflammation and ulcers.
Certain health conditions, including chronic gastritis, pernicious anaemia, gastric polyps, intestinal metaplasia and prior stomach surgery.
Work-related exposure due to coal mining, nickel refining and rubber and timber processing and asbestos exposure.
Cancer of the stomach is difficult to cure unless it is found in an early stage. Unfortunately, because early stomach cancer causes few symptoms, the disease is usually advanced when the diagnosis is made.
Treatment for stomach cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. New treatment approaches such as biological therapy and improved ways of using current methods are being studied in clinical trials.