Stomach cancer or gastric cancer occurs due to abnormal cell growth in the inner lining of the stomach. This is the most common cancer throughout the world caused by Helicobacter pylori infection and excessive smoking.
Types of Stomach Cancer
Based on its origin, stomach cancer is of the following types.
- Adenocarcinoma: This is the most common type of stomach cancer which starts in the inner lining of the stomach
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumours: This rare type starts in the interstitial cells of the stomach.
- Neuroendocrine Tumours: This slow-growing cancer starts in the neuroendocrine cells.
- Lymphoma: This type starts from the lymphatic system and travels to the stomach.
In the initial stages, the symptoms of stomach cancer may not be evident. The initial symptoms may resemble peptic ulcer or stomach infection, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
The main symptoms begin to show up gradually as the disease progresses. These include:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Pain after eating
- Blood in stool
- Abrupt weight loss
The exact cause of stomach cancer is not known. The possible causes, however, are:
- Gender: Men are more prone than women
- Helicobacter pylori infection
- Poor lifestyle
- Family history of cancer
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
Stomach cancer is diagnosed by:
Endoscopy: During this procedure, the doctor will insert a flexible tube fitted with a camera at one end of the throat. This helps the doctor identify the presence and stage of cancer.
Biopsy: The doctor will extract a small tissue from the area and examine for the presence of cancer cells.
Imaging tests: Various imaging tests such as CT scans, and MRIs will be performed to gauge the size, location, and stage of the tumour.
The treatment strategy for stomach cancer depends on the stage and type of cancer, age, and overall health of the patient. Surgery is usually the mainstay of the treatment. It may be combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy for better outcomes.
- Surgery: Surgery is the mainstay of stomach cancer. The doctor will remove the tumour tissues along with surrounding healthy tissues and lymph nodes. In some advanced stages, the doctor may have to partially (partial gastrectomy) or completely (total gastrectomy) remove the stomach. In such cases, the oesophagus is directly connected to the small intestine.
- Radiation therapy: High-energy X-rays will be used to destroy cancer cells. These radiations may be administered before or after the surgery depending on the patient's condition.
- Chemotherapy: High doses of anti-cancer drugs will be administered to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy to remove cells from the body.