Stomach cancer starts when cancer cells form in the inner lining of your stomach. This is a slow-growing disease that usually grows over many years.
If you know its symptoms, you and your doctor might be able to spot it early, when it's a lot easier to treat.
Doctors don't know what causes cancer cells to start growing in the stomach, but they do know a few things that can increase your risk of getting the disease. One of them is infection with a common bacteria, H. pylori, which causes ulcers. Growths in your stomach can also increase your likelihood of getting stomach cancer.
Other things that seem to play a role in increasing your risk include:
• Being overweight or obese
• Type-A blood
• A diet that is high in smoked, pickled, or salty foods
• Certain genes
• Exposure to asbestos
• Working in coal, timber, metal, or rubber industries
• Epstein-Barr virus infection
Early on, stomach cancer may cause:
• Feeling bloated after a meal
• Slight nausea
• Loss of appetite
Just having heartburn or indigestion after a meal doesn't mean that you have stomach cancer. However, if these symptoms occur a lot, talk to your doctor. They will be able to see if you have other risk factors and give you some tests to detect any problems.
Getting a Diagnosis
Your doctor will give you a physical exam. He should also ask you about your medical history to see if you have any risk factors for stomach cancer or any family members who have had it. Then, he might give you some tests, including:
• Blood tests to look for signs of cancer in your body.
• Upper GI series test - You will drink a chalky liquid with a substance called barium in it. The fluid coats your stomach and makes it show more clearly on X-rays.
• Upper endoscopy - Your doctor will place a thin, flexible tube with a small camera down your throat to look into your stomach.
• Biopsy - Your doctor takes a small piece of tissue from your stomach to look at under a microscope for signs of cancer cells.
• CT Scan - This is a powerful X-ray that takes detailed pictures of the inside of your body.
There are many treatments that are used to fight stomach cancer. The one that you and your doctor choose will depend on how long you have had the disease or how much it has spread through your body.
Your doctor might decide to remove part of your stomach and other tissues nearby that have cancer cells. Surgery gets rid of the tumor and stops it from spreading further. If your disease is advanced, the doctor might need to remove all of your stomach.
Drugs kill your cancer cells or keep them from growing. You can take them as pills or through an IV at a hospital. Chemo usually takes several weeks, and the drugs often have unpleasant side effects.
High-energy waves or particles can destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Your doctor may use an X-ray or other machines to beam radiation at the tumor.
These newer drugs are different because they only fight the cancer cells. Other treatments, such as radiation and chemo, can kill healthy cells along with diseased ones. As a result, targeted therapies have fewer side effects than other treatments.
How Can I Prevent Stomach Cancer?
Put more fruit and vegetables on your plate every day. They're high in fiber and vitamins that can lower your cancer risk. You should avoid very salty, cured, pickled, or smoked foods, processed lunch meats, and smoked cheeses. Keep your weight at a healthy level too, as being overweight increases your risk of the disease.
Your risk of getting stomach cancer is doubled if you use tobacco.
Treat Stomach Infections
If you have stomach ulcers from a H. Pylori infection, get treatment. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria, and other drugs will heal the sores in the lining of your stomach to decrease your risk of cancer.