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Stomach Cancer

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Introduction

The stomach is a part of the digestive system. It is a muscular sac located in the upper abdomen below the ribs. The stomach receives the food ingested, and partial digestion takes place in the stomach. The stomach has gastric juices that aid the breakdown

Stomach Cancer is the metastasis of cells in the stomach. It can affect any part of the stomach, the stomach body being the most predominant.

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What are the Causes of Stomach Cancer?

As with any cancer, the exact cause is unknown, but there are a few predisposing factors that tend to increase the risk of cancer:

  • ● Infection with H.pylori, which causes ulcers.
  • ● Prolonged condition of gastritis (inflammation in the gut).
  • ● Pernicious anaemia.
  • ● Polyps in the stomach.

What are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer?

Early symptoms:

  • ● Indigestion.
  • ● Feeling bloated after every meal.
  • ● Heartburn.
  • ● Nausea.
  • ● Loss of appetite.

Symptoms at later stages:

  • ● Stomach pain.
  • ● Bloody stool.
  • ● Vomiting
  • ● Unexplained weight loss.
  • ● Difficulty swallowing.
  • ● Yellowish eyes or skin.
  • ● Constipation or diarrhoea (varies from patient to patient).
  • ● Swelling in the stomach.
  • ● General weakness.
  • ● Heartburn.

Early signs and symptoms do not indicate cancer. If you present with these signs, talk to your doctor to make a definitive diagnosis based on the examinations prescribed accordingly.

How is Stomach Cancer Diagnosed?

  • Endoscopy: A thin tube with a camera at the tip is inserted into the stomach via a patient’s mouth, down the throat. The doctor will look for any lesions or other signs of cancer.
  • Biopsy: If the doctor finds any abnormality in the endoscopy, he will use special tools to excise a small part of the tissue and send it for further analyses. The sample is sent to the lab to check for malignant cells.
  • CT scan: This is an imaging test done to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Barium swallow test: This is a special imaging test mainly done to detect Stomach Cancer.

Staging of Cancer

It is important to know at which stage is the patient to determine the treatment plan. Your doctor will assess your clinical situation and test reports, and then staging is determined. The stages of cancer are indicated by Roman numerals, ranging from 0 to IV, with stage 0 being an early precancerous stage and stage IV being advanced and has spread to other parts of the body.

How is Stomach Cancer Treated?

As mentioned above, treatment plans depend on the stage of cancer, location of cancer, and the aggressiveness of the disease.

  • Surgery: The cancerous mass is surgically excised along with a part of the normal tissue surrounding it. A portion of the normal tissue is included to reduce the chances of recurrence and to ensure that the entire cancerous mass is removed.

In case of Stomach Cancer

  1. ● Early-stage tumours are removed by endoscopic mucosal resection and endoscopic submucosal resection.
  2. ● Subtotal gastrectomy becomes an option if cancer is in the stomach near the small intestine.
  3. ● Total gastrectomy is recommended if the cancer is in the body of the stomach and involves the gastroesophageal junction. The esophagus is then connected directly to the small intestine to allow food to move through the digestive system.

What is the Results of Stomach Cancer Treatment?

As of now, early stages surgical recovery is around 60 percent, but since most Stomach Cancers are diagnosed in later stages, the survival rate is only about 23 percent.

What are the Risks Associated with Stomach Cancer treatments?

Surgery has significant risks and complications as far as the removal of Stomach Cancer is concerned. They are:

  • ● Bleeding
  • ● Blood clots.
  • ● Damage to adjacent tissues.
  • ● Rarely, the new connection between the stomach and esophagus may leak.

You will not be allowed to eat or drink for a couple of days after a total or subtotal gastrectomy to ensure healing and prevent leakage.

What are the Other Treatment options Associated with Stomach Cancer treatments?

  • Chemotherapy: It is a drug treatment where the patient is put on a series of medications to kill cancer cells. This is recommended if cancer has started to spread to the other parts of the body. The drugs will enter the bloodstream and kill cancer cells in the body. Chemotherapy is given both before and after surgery. Before surgery, it is given to shrink cancer and make it easy to remove it through surgery, and after surgery, it kills the cancer cells that might be present in the body in unknown regions. Chemotherapy is often given along with radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy in advanced stages.
  • Radiation therapy: Similar to chemotherapy, radiation therapy can also be given before or after surgery. Here, high-energy beams of protons and X-rays are given that move around the body, killing the cancer cells. In advanced cases, radiation therapy is used to relieve pain and other side effects.
  • Targeted drug therapy: This focuses on specific weaknesses that may be present within the cancer cells. This is preferred in advanced stages of stomach cancer.
  • Immunotherapy: It is a method to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Normally, the immune system does not recognize the cancer cells as dangerous because they produce proteins. Immunotherapy interferes with this process and boosts the immune system. In Stomach Cancer, it is used in advanced stages.
  • Palliative treatment: Supportive measures are taken for you and your family. The aim here is to improve your quality of life. This is carried out alongside the ongoing treatment.

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FAQ's

How successful is Cancer Treatment?

As of now, early stages are manageable if not cured, but advanced stages remain a challenge.

What are the Complications of Stomach Cancer?

Complications include pain, bleeding, difficulty swallowing. Stomach Cancer can spread to the liver and cause further complications like jaundice, ascites, and malaise.

What is the Survival Rate of Patients with Stomach Cancer?

The five-year survival rate stands at 23 percent only because usually Stomach Cancer is diagnosed only in the later stages. Early diagnosis shows a survival rate of up to 60 percent.

Does a Blood Test Detect Stomach Cancer?

Though it cannot be a definitive diagnostic tool, it does show signs like anaemia, blood in stools, etc., that may indicate cancer.

What is New in Stomach Cancer Research?

Immunotherapy is a new area of hope for patients with Stomach Cancer. If successful, it will give an edge to cancer management.

What are the Associated Risk Factors?

The following factors increase the chances of cancer manifold:

  • ● Smoking
  • ● Obesity
  • ● Diet high in smoked, salty, or pickled food
  • ● Surgery for an ulcer
  • ● EBV infection (Epstein-Barr viral infection), also called the kissing disease, is one of the main transmission modes
  • ● Genetic predisposition
  • ● Occupational hazards if working in the coal, metal, timber, or rubber industries
  • ● Type A blood group shows predominance
  • ● Asbestos exposure has also been attributed to causing stomach and lung cancer. However, it is yet to be proved

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