Stomach Cancer/ Gastric Cancer

What is Stomach or Gastric Cancer?
Cancer of the stomach, also referred to as gastric cancer, typically starts in the cells in the inner layer of the stomach.  A mass of tissue called a growth, polyp, or tumor is formed from a buildup of excess cells.  Symptoms vary and early stomach cancer sometimes does not cause any symptoms at all.  What is important to know about the cancer is that life-threatening malignant tumors can spread, progressing more deeply into the wall of the stomach as well as invading nearby organs (liver, pancreas, esophagus, or intestine) after growing through the stomach’s outer layer.  Stomach cancer cells can also overrun other parts of the body – entering blood or lymph vessels and nodes.

Although most stomach cancer patients are typically in their 70’s or older, certain risk factors have been found which increase the likelihood of a person developing gastric cancer.  Among these risk factors are Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infections, which can cause stomach inflammation and peptic ulcers, long term inflammation of the stomach, smoking, family history, poor diet, lack of physical activity or obesity.  Having a known risk factor (or multiple risk factors) does not necessarily mean a person will definitely develop gastric cancer; conversely, some people who do develop the disease display no known risk factors.

Health problems such as an ulcer or infection can often cause the same symptoms as stomach cancer.  Common symptoms are:

• Difficulty swallowing

• Discomfort or pain in the stomach area

• Weight loss

• Nausea and vomiting

• Vomiting blood or having blood in the stool

• Feeling full or bloated after a small meal

It is important to consult a doctor if any of these symptoms are experienced so that diagnoses and treatment can begin as early as possible, reducing the chances of any gastric cancer growing and spreading.

There are several options for treatment of stomach cancer.  The type of treatment used will depend on several factors, including your general health, the stage of the disease, as well as the size and location of the tumor(s).  Surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapies are the most commonly used treatments and are sometimes used in conjunction with each other.  Research studies continue to find new treatment methods.  Patients may opt to take part in a clinical trial which tests new medical approaches.

Generally a team of specialists will participate in the treatment of gastric cancer.  Medical oncologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists as well as a registered dietitian may all be a part of the treatment team.  Together they can describe the treatment choices, possible side effects, and the anticipated results. For more information please click here.