Stomach cancer is the second most common cancer after lung cancer. The tumour usually develops in the lining of stomach and it may spread rapidly to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, there are rising incidents of people suffering from this disease in the west in general and Japan and China in particular. Japan has the facility of extensive screening for stomach cancer, and thus, it helps to diagnose the disease at an earlier stage, and cure 90% of the cases.
It is found that most of the people who suffer from stomach cancer are 50 years of age and above. And men have twice the possibilities to develop stomach cancer than women.
The most common causes of stomach cancer are:
- Diet intake low in fibre
- Excessive intake of diet which is salty, pickled and smoked
- High alcohol consumption
- Chronic gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining)
Signs and symptoms
As stomach has a large ‘bag’ like structure, there is plenty of room for the tumour to grow. Moreover, the symptoms of stomach cancer are mild and not distinctive enough (often mistaken with the symptoms of peptic ulcer). Therefore, there are chances that it may not be diagnosed in its early stages. The various signs and symptoms of stomach cancer are:
- Pain in the upper abdomen; very similar to pain during a peptic ulcer
- Stomach pain usually after eating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Food rich in fibre is good for the digestive system. Thus it can reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Doctors examine your stomach and upper abdomen to check for the evidence of a mass, lump or tumour. Then, endoscopy is what doctors suggest for a clear diagnosis of stomach cancer. Contrast x-ray too gives a fair idea of the original abdominal condition and abnormalities, if any.
As mentioned earlier, the tumour spreads rapidly and thus, treatment is mainly to slow down the development of tumour in other parts rather than curing it. If the diagnosis is done in its early stages, the tumour can be removed with the help of surgery (in around 20% of cases). Surgery helps to remove the affected section of the stomach and the lymph nodes to which the cancer can spread. Patients are given the course of radiotherapy or chemotherapy, as it can control the growth of the tumour.