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Health Corners
Stomach Cancer

Who is at Risk?

  • The disease is found most often in people over age 55.
  • It affects men twice as often as women,
  • It is more common in black people than in white. (However Japan ranks high in the incidence.)
  • Research shows that people who have had gastric surgery have an increased risk of stomach cancer.

Causes

  • Preserved foods and pickling with high salt cause stomach cancer. (Fresh foods offer protection against this disease ).
  • Duodenal ulcers do NOT increase the risk of getting Ca Stomach.
  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori, which may cause stomach inflammation and ulcers, may be an important fore runner for this disease.
  • Exposure to certain environment pollutants (dusts and fumes of some workplaces) has been linked to a higher than average risk of stomach cancer.
  • Smoking may also increase risk of stomach cancer.

Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses the following symptoms are common:

  • Indigestion or a burning sensation (heartburn).
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Bloating of the stomach after meals
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Bleeding

Treatment

Treatment for stomach cancer depends on the size, location, and extent of the tumour; the stage of the disease; the patient's general health; and other factors.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, shock and stress are natural reactions. Cancer of the stomach is difficult to cure unless it is found in an early stage. But unfortunately early stomach cancer causes few symptoms and the disease is usually advanced when the diagnosis is made. However, advanced stomach cancer can be treated and the symptoms can be relieved.

Treatment for stomach cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. A patient may have one form of treatment or a combination of treatments.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for stomach cancer. The operation is called gastrectomy. Gastrectomy is a major surgery. The surgeon removes part (subtotal or partial gastrectomy) or all (total gastrectomy) of the stomach, as well as some of the tissues around the stomach.

Cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, lymph nodes near the tumour are often removed during surgery so that the pathologist can check them for cancer cells. If cancer cells are in the lymph nodes, the disease may have spread to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is given in cycles.

The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the drugs the patient receives. As with any other type of treatment, side effects also vary from person to person. In general, anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly. These include blood cells, which fight infection, help the blood to clot, or carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When blood cells are affected by anticancer drugs, patients are more likely to get infections, may bruise or bleed easily, and may have less energy. Cells in hair roots and cells that line the digestive tract also divide rapidly. As a result of chemotherapy, patients may have side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, or mouth sores. For some patients, the doctor may prescribe medicines to help with side effects, especially with nausea and vomiting.

Most anticancer drugs are given by injection; some are taken by mouth. The doctor may use one drug or a combination of drugs.

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