Stomach Cancer

By:    Published: December 21, 2011

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Stomach cancer can be a very painful and dangerous disease. Fortunately, it is not very common in the United States, according to The Mayo Clinic. However, one of the unusual things about stomach cancer is that it is somewhat common in other parts of the world, especially Japan. There are several ways to treat stomach cancer, which may be preventable with certain lifestyle and diet changes.

Definition

Stomach cancer is a type of cancer that originates and develops in the stomach. It is also called gastric cancer. There are several different parts of the stomach, and stomach cancer may occur in any one or more than one of these sections. Additionally, different symptoms and outcomes can result from stomach cancer depending on the section or sections of the stomach in which it develops.

Types

There are four main types of stomach cancer:

  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of stomach cancer develops from cells that are located in the innermost lining of the stomach called the mucosa. According to the American Cancer Society, about 90 to 95 percent of cancerous stomach tumors are adenocarcinomas.
  • Lymphoma: This type of stomach cancer develops in the immune system tissue located in the wall of the stomach. Lymphomas are the cause of about 4 percent of stomach cancers.
  • Carcinoid tumors: This type of stomach cancer begins in the stomach’s hormone-making cells. Unlike most some other types of stomach tumors, carcinoid tumors typically do not spread to other organs. Carcinoid tumors account for about 3 percent of cases of stomach cancer.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors: These are the rarest types of stomach tumors. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors start in the nervous system cells located in the wall of the stomach. They may develop in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but most occur in the stomach.

Symptoms

Some of the key symptoms of stomach cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • A feeling of fullness in the stomach area
  • Dark stools
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting, especially if blood is in the vomit
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing, particularly when it increases over time
  • Excessive belching
  • Feeling bloated after eating
  • Indigestion
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • A general decline in health

Causes And Risk Factors

Stomach cancers occur as a result of a mutation in the DNA of cells located in the stomach. The mutation causes the affected cells to grow and divide at an increased rate. It also allows those cells to continue living even in conditions when normal cells would die. As the cells continue to multiply, they form into a cancer that causes stomach cancer. The cancerous cells on the stomach tumor can then break off and spread through the body to form cancer in other areas.

Some of the risk factors for stomach cancer are related to lifestyle choices, such as:

  • Eating a diet high in salty or smoked foods
  • Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Eating foods contaminated with aflatoxin fungus
  • Smoking

However, some other risk factors may also come into play. If a person has a history of stomach cancer in their family, their own risk of developing this type of cancer is increased. In addition, having certain health conditions may lead to an increased risk of stomach cancer, including stomach polyps, an infection with Helicobacter pylori, long-term stomach inflammation and pernicious anemia.

Prevention

Because many of the risk factors for stomach cancer are lifestyle-related, many people can take steps to avoid developing this disease. The best way to do this is through making smart diet choices. Avoid eating too many salty or smoked foods, and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Do not smoke, which increases your risk for many types of cancer, including stomach cancer. You should also treat any conditions which may increase your risk for this disease, such as stomach polyps.

Keep in mind that there is no surefire way to prevent stomach cancer. However, following the tips above can reduce a person’s risk considerably.

Treatment

There are several treatment options for stomach cancer, including:

  • Surgery: There are several types of surgery which can be done to remove stomach tumors. Sometimes the tumor itself can be removed, along with a small portion of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor just to be safe. However, in more severe cases of stomach cancer a part of the stomach or even the entire stomach may be removed to get rid of the cancer. Risks of this treatment option include infection, bleeding and digestive problems.
  • Radiation therapy: With this type of treatment, high-powered beams of energy are aimed at the affected area in order to kill the cancerous cells. Side effects of this treatment often include diarrhea, indigestion, nausea and vomiting.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill the cancerous cells. These drugs can be administered orally or intravenously. It is often used for the rarer forms of stomach cancer. Side effects of this treatment option vary based on which drugs are used.

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