Learn about stomach cancer

What is stomach cancer?

This disease, also known as gastric cancer, involves the formation of cancer cells in the walls of the stomach. The tumour can grow and spread to other parts of the body.

Most cases of stomach cancer are known as adenocarcinomas, which indicates that the cancer started in the glandular tissue inside the stomach. There are other types of stomach tumours, such as lymphoma, gastric sarcoma, or carcinoid tumours, but these are less common.

What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?

This type of cancer usually takes time to show symptoms. Also, these symptoms do not indicate that the person has the disease, so you always have to get a medical diagnosis.

Some of the main symptoms of stomach cancer are:

  • Indigestion or acidity
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Dark stools
  • Impaired intestinal transit
  • Swelling in the stomach after eating
  • Sensation of loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and tideness
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason

Causes and risk factors of stomach cancer

The risk factors in the case of stomach cancer are:

  • Age: the disease occurs more frequently in people over 55 years old, being the majority age of diagnosis between 60 and 70 years old.
  • Sex: men are twice as likely as women to develop this disease.
  • Family history: If first-degree relatives (parents or siblings) have had stomach cancer, the person is at higher risk of contracting it.
  • Bacteria: the common bacterium helicobacter pylori, which causes ulcers and inflammation in the stomach, is also considered one of the main risk factors for this type of cancer.
  • Ethnicity: people of black, Hispanic or Asian ethnicity are more likely to develop it.
  • Food: a diet high in salt or canned foods can also increase the risk.
  • Exposure to tobacco and alcohol.
  • Obesity: Excessive weight also increases the chances of stomach cancer.

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Before the appearance of these symptoms, after ruling out other affectations, it is likely that the medical team performs any of the following tests to determine whether or not there is a diagnosis of stomach cancer:

  • Biopsy: it consists of removing a small amount of tissue from the stomach to analyse it This test allows a definitive diagnosis.
  • Endoscopy: allows to observe through an endoscope the interior of the organ to the sedated patient. During the study, the doctor can obtain a tissue sample.
  • EUS: test, similar to endoscopy, it differs because the instrument used has an ultrasound device, which creates images of the stomach wall and surrounding organs.
  • CT: computed tomography, to confirm the location of the tumour and assess the involvement of the lymph nodes and / or neighbouring organs.
  • Magnetic resonance: this test, similar to CAT, allows to obtain detailed images of the soft tissues by means of magnetic fields and its affectation by stomach cancer.
  • Laparoscopy: this test is performed in the operating room and under anaesthesia. It consists of introducing a camera in the abdomen to assess the extent of the disease and determine if the tumour can be removed completely through surgery.

How is stomach cancer treated?

The main treatments for this type of cancer include different options, in many cases they are combined:

  • Surgery: it consists of removing a part of the stomach (subtotal gastrectomy) or the whole organ, in case the disease has spread a lot (total gastrectomy) and the nearby lymph nodes. If the stomach cancer has spread, becoming peritoneal carcinomatosis, cytoreductive surgery can be combined with the application of chemotherapy intraoperative at 42 degrees inside the abdomen, a technique known as HIPEC.
  • Chemotherapy: it consists of using drugs that destroy the tumour cells and prevent their multiplication.
  • Radiotherapy: it consists in the use of high energy X-rays to destroy the tumour cells.
  • Chemoradiation: combines chemotherapy with radiotherapy to increase the effects of both.
  • Targeted therapy: such as monoclonal antibodies, is the use of drugs to attack cancer cells selectively.

If you or a family member have been detected of stomach cancer, it is essential to have an expert medical diagnosis, to inform you about your condition and treatment options. Did you know that the first surgery represents up to 90% of the success of the treatment? You can find more information here.

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