About Stomach Cancer

The stomach, a part of the digestive system, secretes gastric juices to digest food before passing it to the intestines. The stomach wall comprises five layers. When cancer begins in any part of the stomach layers, it causes stomach cancer or gastric cancer. Stomach cancers are slow-growing and can take years to form. One of the earliest signs of stomach cancer is changes in the stomach lining. There are different types of stomach cancer, but the most common are adenocarcinomas (over 90% of stomach cancers belong to this type). Stomach cancer treatment options depend upon multiple factors. Common risk factors for stomach cancer include smoking, genetics, family history, H.pylori infection, chronic stomach conditions like acidity or acid reflux. Stomach cancers are common in older adults (over 50) and men. Stomach cancer life expectancy largely depends upon the cancer stage at the time of diagnosis.

Symptoms

In the early stages, stomach cancer may not show any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they

are vague and often mistaken for less severe conditions. The most common stomach cancer symptoms are:

  • Feeling full even after eating small quantities of food
  • Tiredness
  • Unexplained or unintended weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Blood in stools
  • Indigestion
  • Anaemia due to iron deficiency
  • Feeling sick
  • Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Pain in the tummy and sometimes, behind the breast bone   

Though these symptoms may appear in many other conditions, it is best to get them checked out by your doctor. Your signs and symptoms assist your doctor and healthcare team in determining how to treat stomach cancer.

Diagnosis

If you are experiencing symptoms and have a medical or family history of stomach cancer,

you may need to undergo a few tests to determine if you have the condition. Commonly performed tests include:

  • Gastroscopy: A small tube (endoscope) is inserted into the mouth via the oesophagus

into the stomach to look inside the organ for any abnormalities in its lining. Any abnormal tissue can be collected for further analysis.

  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): This internal ultrasound helps your doctor get a detailed view of the stomach from inside.
  • Imaging tests: CT scan and PET scan may be performed to assess the extent and spread of stomach cancer to other nearby regions or distant sites in the body.

The tissue samples collected are further analysed to determine the stage and grade of stomach cancer, which will help select the best stomach cancer treatment options for you.

Treatment

The treatment for your stomach cancer depends upon its stage. Your treatment plan

may include more than one option. The standard stomach cancer treatment options are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy

 Other treatments that may be recommended to treat stomach cancer include immunotherapy, biotherapy and targeted therapy.

Your doctor and multidisciplinary healthcare team will explain the various treatment

options based on if you have early-stage or advanced stage (stage 4) stomach cancer. They will also discuss the benefits and side effects of various treatments, help you manage any side effects of radiation or chemotherapy and stomach cancer and provide support throughout your journey.

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