- by Dr Murali Subramanian Oncology India
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- Feb 13 2018
Stomach Cancer: Causes and Treatment
What is stomach?
It is a part of the digestive system and it is a hollow organ in the upper abdomen, under the ribs. Food moves from the mouth through the oesophagus to the stomach. In the stomach, the food becomes liquid. Muscles in the stomach wall push the liquid into the small intestine.
The wall of the stomach has five layers:
• Inner layer or lining (mucosa)
• Sub mucosa
• Muscle Layer
• Sub serosa
• Outer layer (serosa)
It is also known as gastric cancer and it is the accumulation of an abnormal (malignant, cancerous) group of cells that form a mass in a part of the stomach. It is characterized by a growth of cancerous cells within the lining of the stomach. This type of cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms until the last stages, so it is often not diagnosed until it is more advanced.
A stomach cancer can grow through the stomach's outer layer into nearby organs, such as the liver, pancreas, oesophagus, or intestine.
Stomach cancer cells can spread up by breaking away from the original tumor and then they enter blood vessels, through which they can travel to all the tissues of the body. This process is called metastasis.
The exact cause of stomach cancer is not known. There are certain risk factors such as:
- Helicobacter pylori infection: This bacterium commonly infects the inner lining of the stomach.
- Long-term inflammation of stomach increases the risk of stomach cancer.
- Smoking is more likely to develop stomach cancer.
- Poor diet, lack of physical activity or obesity.
- Stomach polyps
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Working in coal, metal, timber, or rubber industries
- Exposure to asbestos
Early symptoms of stomach cancer include:
- A sensation of being very full (or rapidly full) during meals
- Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties)
- Feeling bloated after meals
- Frequent burping
- Indigestion that does not go away
- Stomach-ache, or pain in the sternum (breastbone)
- Trapped wind
- Vomiting (may contain blood)
The following signs and symptoms in people at increased risk of developing stomach cancer should be taken seriously (see a doctor):
- Indigestion in combination with at least one of the following: unexpected weight loss, being sick or anemia.
When the stomach cancer becomes more advanced, the following signs and symptoms typically become more apparent:
- Accumulation of fluid in the stomach - stomach feels "lumpy"
- Black stools, or blood in stools
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Gastroscopic exam: The specialist looks at the inside of the patient's stomach with a fiber optic camera.
- Ultrasound scan
- Barium meal X-ray
- CT scan or PET scan
- Ultrasound scan
- Blood tests
Treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, medications, and taking part in clinical trials.
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