Stomach Cancer (Gastric Adenocarcinoma): Types, Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Diagnosis, Treatment, Outlook and Prevention

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Illustration of the stages of stomach cancer

1Overview

Stomach cancer is hard to detect at early stages because of the vague signs and symptoms that the patient is experiencing. The growth of the cancer cells usually lies in the lining of the stomach or the mucosa and can spread to nearby tissues and organs and can have different symptoms and treatments.

The diagnosis of stomach cancers can be difficult at early stages, but treatment may vary according to type and stages of cancer.

2Types of stomach cancer

 

Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)

This type of tumor is benign and rare, although in some other cases it is cancerous.
It is found in the interstitial cells in the lining of the stomach.

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is diagnosed in some cases of stomach cancer like the Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Prognosis depends on the treatment that is given to the patient.

Adenocarcinoma

About all of the cases of stomach cancer are classified as adenocarcinomas where the tumor is mostly found in the mucosa of the stomach upon diagnosis.

Carcinoid tumor

It originates in the cells within the stomach but unlike other types of stomach cancer, this type of cancer does not spread to other organs.

3Symptoms

The symptoms of stomach cancer are not detected except if the cancer is in the advanced stage already. Most symptoms are prevalent in the patient and manifest symptoms that involve the digestive system like:

Loss of appetite

The stomach is part of the upper digestive system when the patient has developed cancer in the stomach, they may experience discomfort and it results in loss of appetite and sometimes accompanied by weight loss.

Heartburn

Due to the decreased function of the stomach, sometimes the acids may go to the esophageal tract and this can damage the track causing pain to the chest part.

Bloating

The patient can feel the feeling of fullness or bloat, and it is due to the decreased function of the digestive tract.

Pain

The destruction of the cells in the mucosa in the stomach causes scarring and ulcers and this can be painful for the patient. The pain is felt even worse after meals.

Nausea and Vomiting

Disruption of the normal function of the digestive system can result in nausea and even vomit.

Jaundice

Jaundice the accumulation of the bilirubin in the system can result in the yellow discoloration of the skin and even the eyes of the patient. This can indicate a problem involving the gallbladder, liver including the stomach.

Bloody stools

The blood present in the stool indicates that there are a fresh wound usually ulcers in the digestive tract. Melena is the term used if the blood in the stool detected occurs in the upper digestive tract, the color of the stool is usually dark.

4Causes

The stomach is part of the digestive system, which digests or break down the food and turn it into a simple form and goes down into the small intestines and so on.

Stomach cancers are usually undetected during the early stages because it slowly progress and the symptoms are felt if the cancer is in the advanced stage.

The cells in the mucosa or the lining of the stomach can mutate and grow out of control and will form a tumor, sometimes it starts as benign and as the time pass it can transform and be a malignant tumor.

The cause why the cells are sometimes mutating is still unknown to the researchers today, but risk factors can aggravate or increase the chances of the person developing stomach or gastric cancer.

5Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of having gastric cancer in which this includes certain types of diseases and predisposing factors like:

Polyps

Presence of polyps, an overgrowth of the lining of the stomach, can be a determining factor in developing gastric cancer.

Helicobacter pylori

Stomach pain is also associated with an infection in the digestive system and of the causative agent is the Helicobacter Pylori. The bacteria often causes stomach and intestinal ulcers.

Lymphoma

Lymphoma is the type of cancer that is present in the immune system and can also affect the stomach.

Tumors

Tumors on the other parts of the digestive system like the esophagus or intestines can spread in the gastric area.

Gender

According to studies, men have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer than women.

Ethnicity

The prevalence of stomach cancer is high among South American and Asian people like Korean and Japanese.

Smokers

Smokers have an increased chance of having stomach cancers because of the exposure to the harmful chemicals. Esophageal cancer is also common among smokers.

Family History

Family members who have a history of stomach cancer can increase the chances of other family members to develop the same condition.

Age

Elderly patients, mostly 50 years old and over have an increased risk of developing a certain illness like cancer.

Diet

Pickled and salty foods contain nitrates that are converted into bacteria that can cause problems in the stomach.

Overweight

Cancer on the upper part of the digestive system is possible to occur when the patient has problems with his or her weight.

Blood Type

Persons having Blood type A have a certain chemical found in the red blood cells that makes them vulnerable to developing stomach cancer.

6Diagnosis

Stomach cancer is not usually detected during the early stages so when the person seeks medical attention, it is already in the advanced stage. When this happens the doctor will perform a physical assessment and determine the symptoms felt by the patient.

Routine blood tests are ordered to determine infections or bacteria present in the system. Further examinations will be conducted to best diagnose the patient for stomach cancer like:

Imaging tests

X-rays. A non-invasive procedure to view the structure of the body. This helps the doctor in diagnosis certain illnesses.

CT-scan. Gives the doctor a detailed image that is a cross-sectional view of the organs in the abdomen without making an incision on the skin.

Endoscopy

The doctor uses a thin tube that has a small camera and inserts it in the mouth down to the digestive tract of the patient to view the insides of it. This will help see if there are any abnormalities on the lining of the stomach like polyps or stomach ulcers.

Biopsy

It is acquiring a sample of the lining of the stomach to be sent to the lab for further tests. Sometimes the tissue samples are deep within the lining, if this happens the doctor will use other methods of acquiring samples.

7Treatment

Just like any other cancers the treatment options is the same.

Surgery

Surgery is one of the options for the patient, the surgeon will remove the portion which has cancer and other nearby lymph nodes to make sure if that the cancer cells did not spread to the nodes.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy

Radiation Therapy is done by using high energy beam to destroy the cancer cells while chemotherapy uses chemicals that are introduced into the body to kill the remaining cancer cells. Although there are side effects in this treatments, there are manageable ways to relieve the discomfort that the patient is experiencing.

8Outlook

The earlier the cancer is detected the higher the chances of the patient has of surviving.
It is best to determine the origin of cancer so that the treatment will be directed to that part.

Today, there are many clinical trials that are present and some patients have agreed to participate in these trials. Support groups are also present to be there for the patient, dealing with illnesses can be depressive if the patient has no support system, the groups are usually cancer survivors and some who are still battling with the disease.

9Prevention

There are ways of lowering the risk of developing stomach cancer by:

Cessation of smoking

Smoking is one of the risks of having stomach cancer, quitting smoking can lower the chance by half. Long exposure to the harmful chemicals of cigarettes including tobacco can damage the mucosa of the mouth right down to the esophagus, this can cause ulcers and eventually evolve into a more serious condition.

Healthy lifestyle

Exercising daily can lower the risk of acquiring illnesses because the body is in its optimal condition to fight off invading microorganisms that cause certain illnesses.

Balanced diet

Eating nutritious foods can definitely help boost the immune system. Fruits and vegetables are needed to have a balanced diet, make sure to include at least one of these foods in your meal like wheat bread, cereals, beans, fish, and poultry. Avoid or eat less of foods that are pickled, high in salt and smoked.

Foods should be stored and cooked properly to prevent digestion problems.

Weight

Managing your weight can help decrease the risks for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and also cancers.

Check-ups

Make sure to have an annual exam to make sure that your overall health is in its optimal condition. Do not hesitate to consult your general practitioner if you are experiencing some pain in your stomach. Screening tests are available to rule out possible illnesses.