Gastric cancer is cancer that occurs in the stomach. Worldwide there are approximately 800,000 deaths caused by gastric cancer each year.
For every one female that is diagnosed with gastric cancer there are three males diagnosed. While the cause is not known for sure, it is believed that there are several causes of gastric cancer.
Some evidence shows that it is caused by an infection called helicobacter pylori. It is also thought to have genetic causes and lifestyle causes. Those who smoke and drink have higher instances of gastric cancer.
Signs & Symptoms
Unfortunately by the time gastric cancer shows signs and symptoms it is usually fairly advanced. Early symptoms may include a loss of appetite and discomfort in the abdomen. Some patients also experience burning sensations in their stomach. Late stage symptoms are much more severe and can include pain, nausea, vomiting, changes in bowel habits, and dramatic weight loss.
Gastric cancer is diagnosed through a variety of tests. Doctors usually start with a physical exam and questions regarding the patient’s family history. Their medical history and lifestyle choices are also discussed. Doctors have several options for testing. They can perform a biopsy on tissue if it appears to be abnormal. They can look into the stomach using a gastroscopic exam or a CT scan of the abdomen. A gastroscopic exam uses a camera that is sent directly into the stomach. They may also conduct what is called an upper GI series. This is a series of tests that looks at the gastrointestinal tract.
Treatment for gastric cancer depends on the location and stage of the cancer. Early stage gastric cancer can usually be removed surgically with no additional treatment needed. Later stages gastric cancer has spread to nearby tissue and lymph nodes. For late stage gastric cancer there is no cure and any treatments at this point are mainly trying to manage the symptoms.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the three main types of treatments used in treating gastric cancer. Chemotherapy is not very effective on these types of cancers, but it can be helpful when used in combination with the other treatments.
As with most cancers the patient’s prognosis depends on many factors. The overall health of the patient, their age and the stage of the cancer are just a few factors that can determine the outcome of the disease. Since it is a cancer that is likely to spread, late stage gastric cancer unfortunately does not have a very good prognosis at all. After lung cancer, gastric cancer is the second most common cause of deaths due to cancer.