Gastric cancer, also known as stomach cancer, begins its growth from the stomach. It starts from the cells that line the stomach walls. Sometimes, this type of cancer is also called adenocarcinoma. Gastric cancer specifically occurs in the area between the upper part of the stomach and the lower end of the esophagus. In recent years, cancer in this gastroesophageal junction has become more common. Here are five frequently asked questions about gastric cancer.
What causes gastric cancer?
Gastric cancer progresses slowly over time. Before cancer actually develops, many pre-cancerous changes begin in the inner lining or mucosa of the stomach. It starts with a mutation in the DNA of the stomach lining cell. Over time, the mutation leads to unnatural multiplication of cells at a rapid rate. Under normal circumstances, new cells grow only when older cells die. However, in the case of cancer, the cancerous cells continue to accumulate and form tumors. Gastric cancer is often associated with GERD or gastrointestinal reflux disease. GERD is caused when stomach acid frequently flows back from the stomach to the esophagus.
Are there any associated risk factors?
One of the major risk factors of gastric cancer is a history of gastrointestinal diseases such as GERD. Other conditions and diseases that may increase the risk of stomach cancer are as follows:
- H.pylori bacterial infection
- Tumors in the digestive system
- Stomach polyps
- Family history of gastric cancer
- Diet of processed and salty foods
- Eating too much meat
- Eating uncooked food
- Eating food that hasn’t been properly stored
- Sedentary lifestyle
What are the symptoms of gastric cancer?
Typically, gastric cancer doesn’t have early signs or symptoms. The symptoms start to manifest only after the cancer reaches a considerably advanced stage. Here are some commonly observed symptoms.
- Frequent heartburn
- Vomiting and nausea
- Appetite loss
- Sudden weight loss
- Blood in stools
- Extreme fatigue
- Frequently experiencing abdomen bloating
- Abdominal pain, specifically after meals
What are the various stages of gastric cancer?
The earliest stage of gastric cancer is stage 0. It is called carcinoma in situ. The cancer then advances from stage 1 to stage 4. The lower the stage, the less extensive will be the spread of cancer. As the stage advances, the cancer begins to spread more over time. When it comes to staging, stomach cancer can be categorized in stages 0, 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 3C, and 4. This staging is broadly done based on the layer of cells where cancer is infiltrated.
How is gastric cancer diagnosed?
Since there are no early signs and symptoms of gastric cancer, it is generally not diagnosed until the advanced stages are reached. Moreover, the symptoms are quite similar to those of other gastrointestinal disorders. Hence, substantial time is spent in elimination during the diagnosis. A doctor usually starts diagnosis through a physical examination. This involves checking for any abnormalities in the abdomen. In addition, a blood test for specifically testing for the presence of H.pylori bacteria is done. Diagnosis also includes other tests such as upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, biopsy, CT scans, and X-rays.
What are the common treatment methods for gastric cancer?
The treatment for gastric cancer depends on the stage of cancer and how cancer originates. Additionally, the age and overall health of a person has an impact on the treatment methods. Generally, gastric cancer is treated through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and immunotherapy, which involves the use of medications and vaccines. Along with treating the cancerous cells, the treatment for gastric cancer involves preventing the further spread of cancer to other organs. If not treated in time, cancer may spread to the bones, lymph nodes, lungs, and liver.