What are the Symptoms of Stomach Cancer? What Should I Ask for Diagnosis and Treatment?
Stomach cancer rarely shows symptoms in the early stage, so more than half of the patients with gastric cancer are diagnosed in the advanced stage. Stomach cancers that are at an early stage and treated with surgery are often detected without any symptoms or because of screening endoscopies.
According to Cancer Research UK 2016-2018 Statistics, there are around 6,500 new stomach cancer cases in the UK every year, that's 18 every day. Stomach cancer is the 17th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 2% of all new cancer cases. In females in the UK, stomach cancer is the 19th most common cancer, with around 2,200 new cases every year. In males in the UK, stomach cancer is the 13th most common cancer, with around 4,200 new cases every year. Incidence rates for stomach cancer in the UK are highest in people aged 85 to 89. Each year half (50%) of all new stomach cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over.
How do I know if I have Stomach Cancer? Symptoms
Unexplained weight loss and chronic abdominal pain are the most common symptoms. It often occurs due to a decrease in calorie intake.
The following may be signs of stomach cancer:
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the stomach area
- More in the belly, indistinct pain in the abdomen
- Feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Vomiting with or without blood
- Abdominal swelling or fluid buildup
The symptoms above may be caused by stomach cancer or other milder diseases such as gastritis, stomach ulcer, or reflux. For this reason, if you have one or more of these complaints, if they do not go away, or if they are getting worse, it is useful to consult a doctor and get an expert opinion.
Does Everyone Have the Same Chance of Getting Stomach Cancer?
Not everyone is equally likely to get stomach cancer. Causes that increase your chances of getting cancer are called risk factors.
Risk factors for stomach cancer include:
- Gender: Stomach cancer is more common in men.
- Age: Most patients are between 60 and 80 years old.
- The effect of one's place of residence and Ethnicity: The most common places where stomach cancer is encountered all over the world; are Japan, China, Southern, and Eastern Europe, and South and Central America. This disease is rare in North and West Africa, South Central Asia, and North America.
- Some infectious microorganisms:
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): infection due to this bacterium is the main cause of stomach cancer. Long-term infection with this bacterium can cause precancerous changes and inflammation in the lining of the stomach and is linked to ulcers and some types of lymphoma. In addition, studies conducted in recent years show that the virus infection called EBV is responsible for up to 10% of stomach cancers.
- Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV): This virus causes "mono" infectious mononucleosis, or glandular fever. It is not yet clear why this virus, which is present in almost all adults at some point in their lives, can trigger stomach cancer in some people. However, the virus has been found in gastric cancer cells.
- Diet: It has been observed that the increase in the risk of gastric cancer is directly proportional to the consumption of pickled vegetables, salted fish and meat products, and smoked foods. On the other hand, abundant consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of stomach cancer.
- Tobacco Use: Smoking is known to increase the risk of stomach cancer about two times.
- Being Overweight or Obese: Being overweight or obese is a possible cause of cancer formation in the upper part of the stomach. However, the relationship between the weight-related risk factor with overweight or obesity has not yet been clarified.
- Previous Stomach Surgery: It is possible to be seen in people who have had a part of their stomach removed for the treatment of other problems such as stomach cancer and ulcers. This type of stomach cancer can also occur years after surgery.
- Pernicious Anemia (a type of anemia): This disease occurs when the stomach does not produce enough of the protein that enables the absorption of vitamin B12 from food. This can extend to a deficiency of red blood cells (anemia) and other problems. People with pernicious anemia have an increased risk of stomach cancer.
- Menetrier's Disease: This rare disease can cause changes in the stomach that will cause cancer.
- Effect of Blood Type: For an unknown reason, people with type A blood have a higher risk of stomach cancer.
- Hereditary Cancer Syndrome: This syndrome is a combination of symptoms that indicate a disease or condition. Some syndromes with inherited gene changes from families can increase the risk of stomach cancer. These syndromes are:
- Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
- General familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- Family History: People who have had stomach cancer in their family members (mother, father, siblings, and children) are more likely to get this disease.
- Some Types of Gastric Polyps: Polyps develop in the stomach lining and are benign. Most polyps do not increase the risk of stomach cancer. However, adenomatous polyps or adenomas occasionally develop into stomach cancer.
- Effect of Some Jobs: People working in the coal, metal, and rubber industries have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer.
What Should I do if I have a High Risk for Stomach Cancer or if I Suspect Stomach Cancer?
If there is any reason to suspect stomach cancer, you should consult a GP. If the GP suspects stomach cancer after examining and evaluating you, he or she will recommend further tests and/or consult you with a gastroenterologist.
Upper endoscopy application: The patient is anesthetized with medication using an anesthetic method called sedation. A thin, flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera at the end is then inserted down the patient's throat. As the tube progresses, the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine are examined. If anything, that doesn't look normal is found, a sample of tissue is taken (biopsy) through this tube. Tissue samples examined in a laboratory setting will determine the presence of cancer.
What Should I Ask if the Biopsy Result Shows Stomach Cancer?
You should ask at what stage stomach cancer is. Because the most important determinant of treatment in gastric cancer is the stage of the disease. Gastric cancer is divided into 2 groups surgical intervention can be performed or surgical intervention cannot be performed.
If cancer has spread to lymph nodes, nearby organs, or major blood vessels, or has spread to distant parts of the body, or if the patient has unfavorable health conditions, it may prevent the tumor from being completely removed by surgical intervention. Early-stage cancers are usually capable of surgical intervention.
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