Stomach Cancer

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, can develop in any part of the stomach over time. A cancer that mostly affects older people, stomach cancer only affects about 1 in 116 people. If not treated, it can eventually spread to other organs like the small intestines, lymph nodes, liver, pancreas and colon.

Causes

While the specific cause of stomach cancer is unknown, we do know about certain risk factors.  For instance, men are twice as likely to get stomach cancer as women, and African Americans are more likely to have stomach cancer than Caucasians. Some studies indicate that a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, which is known to cause ulcers and inflammation in the stomach, might be related to stomach cancer as well.

Symptoms

Many patients do not show symptoms until later stages of stomach cancer, and after it has been diagnosed. Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Bloody stools or blood in vomit
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Being unable to eat because of a feeling of being full

Testing

The two main tests to diagnose gastric cancer are an endoscopy and an upper GI series. During an endoscopy, a doctor runs a thin plastic tube called an endoscope through the mouth and down the esophagus to the stomach. The endoscope has a camera on the end, which can help observe the interior of the stomach and also collect biopsies for testing.

An upper GI series is when a patient drinks a barium solution and then given X-rays. Since the X-ray can’t pass through the barium liquid, any abnormal areas in the stomach will be outlined in the X-ray.

If cancer is found, other tests may include a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound of the stomach and blood chemistry tests, all to determine the spread of the gastric cancer and other organs affected within the body.

Treatment

Treatment for gastric cancer depends on where the cancer is and just how much it’s spread throughout the body. The most common treatments for stomach cancer involve surgery to remove cancerous tumors, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

If you suspect you have gastric cancer or are experiencing similar symptoms, please visit your physician as soon as possible. To learn more about stomach cancer online, visit The American College of Gastroenterology.