Stomach Cancer

What is stomach cancer?

Stomach cancer—also known as gastric cancer—is an abnormal growth of cells in the stomach. This type of cancer usually develops in the mucous-producing cells in the lining of the stomach and is more commonly found in the gastroesophageal junction (where the esophagus and the top of the stomach meet). However, it may also be found in the main part of the stomach (stomach body).

What causes stomach cancer?

Though the cause of stomach cancer is unknown, there are risk factors that can increase its chances of developing. These include:

  • A diet lacking lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Excessive consumption of pickled, smoked or salty foods
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Genetic disposition and/or family history
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Long-term stomach inflammation
  • Obesity
  • Polyps in the stomach
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of stomach cancer?

Symptoms of stomach cancer can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constant heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Feeling full after a few bites of food
  • Severe, persistent indigestion
  • Unexplained, continual nausea
  • Unintended weight loss

How is stomach cancer diagnosed?

Testing modalities for diagnosing stomach cancer can include:

  • An upper endoscopy, where a tube with a camera goes through the mouth and into the stomach (a tissue sample, or biopsy, may also be taken during this procedure)
  • Imaging tests, such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a barium swallow, a certain type of X-ray where a special mixture is consumed to help find abnormalities

If a diagnosis of stomach cancer is confirmed, the next step is to determine the stage it’s in:

  • Stage I: The tumor is limited to the surface layer of tissue that lines the stomach or esophagus. It may have also spread to some nearby lymph nodes
  • Stage II: The tumor has spread into more layers of tissue and spread to more lymph nodes
  • Stage III: The cancer has spread (metastasized) through all layers of tissue and into nearby areas, including numerous lymph nodes
  • Stage IV: The cancer has spread to far away areas of the body

What are the treatment options for stomach cancer?

Treatment for stomach cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as overall health. Methods of treatment can include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Removing a section of the stomach (subtotal gastrectomy)
  • Removing early-stage tumors via endoscopic mucosal resection from the stomach lining
  • Removing the whole stomach (total gastrectomy) and directly attaching the esophagus to the small intestine
  • Targeted drug therapies that attack certain aspects of cancer cells or guide the immune system to destroy them

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