Thu. Jul 18th, 2024
Stomach Cancer Causes, Symptoms, and TreatmentStomach Cancer Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Introduction

Stomach cancer, also known as gastric cancer, is a malignancy that develops in the lining of the stomach. Despite advancements in medical science, it remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for early detection and effective management.

Definition and Importance

Stomach cancer arises when cancerous cells form in the stomach lining, disrupting its normal function. It’s a significant health concern due to its high mortality rate and its impact on individuals and families.

Types and Categories

Stomach cancer can be categorized based on various factors, including histology and location within the stomach.

Histological Classification

  1. Adenocarcinoma: This is the most common type, accounting for about 90% of stomach cancers. It originates in the glandular tissue of the stomach lining.
  2. Lymphoma: These cancers start in the immune system tissue within the stomach wall.
  3. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs): Rare tumors that develop in the stomach’s connective tissue or nervous system.
  4. Carcinoid tumors: These tumors are relatively rare and develop from hormone-producing cells in the stomach lining.

Anatomical Classification

  • Cardia: Cancer that develops in the top part of the stomach near the esophagus.
  • Non-cardia: Cancer that affects other areas of the stomach.

Symptoms and Signs

Recognizing the symptoms of stomach cancer can aid in early detection and prompt treatment.

Common Symptoms

  • Persistent abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue and weakness

Less Common Symptoms

  • Blood in the stool
  • Anemia
  • Jaundice
  • Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)

Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the development of stomach cancer, including genetic predisposition and environmental influences.

Biological Factors

  • Helicobacter pylori infection: Chronic infection with this bacterium increases the risk of developing stomach cancer.
  • Genetic mutations: Inherited genetic mutations, such as those in the CDH1 gene, can predispose individuals to stomach cancer.
  • Family history: Having a family member with a history of stomach cancer increases the likelihood of developing the disease.

Environmental Factors

  • Dietary factors: Consumption of smoked, salted, or pickled foods, as well as a diet low in fruits and vegetables, may elevate the risk.
  • Tobacco and alcohol: Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Prolonged exposure to substances such as asbestos or coal dust may contribute to the development of stomach cancer.

Diagnosis and Tests

Early diagnosis of stomach cancer involves various diagnostic tests and procedures.

Imaging Tests

  • Endoscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the stomach to examine the lining and take tissue samples (biopsy).
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) series: X-rays of the esophagus and stomach are taken after drinking a contrast solution to highlight abnormalities.

Laboratory Tests

  • Biopsy: Tissue samples obtained during endoscopy are examined under a microscope to check for cancerous cells.
  • Blood tests: Blood samples may reveal abnormalities such as anemia or elevated tumor markers.

Staging Procedures

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: Imaging technique to determine the extent of cancer spread beyond the stomach.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: Used to detect cancerous cells in other parts of the body.

Treatment Options

The choice of treatment for stomach cancer depends on the cancer stage, location, and overall health of the patient.

Surgery

  • Gastrectomy: Surgical removal of part or all of the stomach.
  • Lymphadenectomy: Removal of nearby lymph nodes to prevent cancer spread.

Chemotherapy

  • Adjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy administered before surgery to shrink the tumor.

Radiation Therapy

  • External beam radiation: High-energy rays are directed at the cancerous cells to destroy them.
  • Brachytherapy: Radioactive sources are placed directly into or near the tumor site.

Targeted Therapy

  • Trastuzumab (Herceptin): A targeted therapy for cancers that overexpress the HER2 protein.
  • Ramucirumab (Cyramza): Blocks the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

Preventive Measures

While certain risk factors for stomach cancer cannot be modified, adopting healthy lifestyle habits may help reduce the risk.

Dietary Modifications

  • Eat a balanced diet: Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed and red meats.
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Treat Helicobacter pylori infection: Consult a healthcare professional for appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Regular Screening

  • Routine endoscopy: Individuals with a family history of stomach cancer or other risk factors may benefit from regular screening.

Conclusion

Stomach cancer poses significant challenges, but advancements in diagnosis and treatment offer hope for patients and their families. By understanding its causes, recognizing symptoms, and pursuing early intervention, individuals can improve their chances of successful outcomes.

Whether through medical treatment, lifestyle modifications, or emotional support, every step taken in the fight against stomach cancer brings us closer to a future free from this devastating disease.